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@1992 FfiSfi CORPORfiTIOfi TABLE THE COMSTAR ORDER Introduction HISTORY OF COMSTAR The Rise of Blake Linking the Stars

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@1992 FfiSfi CORPORfiTIOfi

TABLE THE COMSTAR ORDER Introduction HISTORY OF COMSTAR The Rise of Blake Linking the Stars The Amaris Coup long Road to Terra Liberation of Terra Hilton Head Complex Collapse of the Star league Reconstruction Birth of ComStar Operation Exodus The First Circuit Operation Silver Shield The Foundation Years Prosperity and Principles Expansion Years Mercenary Review Board Public Image Creation of ROM A New Order Death of Blake A Brotherhood Divided The Purification The Word of Blake The ComStar War Puppet of the Primus Dance of Death Dark Hours, Dark Deeds Marik Gives In The Consolidation Years Karpov Ascendant ComStar Strikes The Veddar Affair War Renewed Slow Change Civil War Kurstin the Mad Age of Enlightenment Calm Before the Storm The Explorer Primus The Tripitz Affair The Jolly Roger Affair The Mysterious Dragoons The Tiepolo Years Old Business House of Cards New Avalon Institute of Science Circles Within Circles Fourth Succession War

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F 4 4 5 6 6

The Waterly Era Covert Operations Rosebud Flush Spread of the Com Guards War of 3039 Aftermath The Clan War Year of Peace Conflict Renewed Counterattack Battle for Tukayyid Operation Scorpion NEW ORDERS New ComStar Reformation United We Stand Organization Rank Structure The First Circuit Reformation-Era ROM Com Guards in the Reformation Com Guards-Deployment As of 3055 The Sol System Relations with the Inner Sphere ComStar Personalities Primus Sharilar Mori Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht Precentor ROM Victoria Parrdeau Word of Blake The Renegades The Marik Alliance Monkey Warfare Organization Current Doctrine Politics Word Of Blake Personalities Precentor Blane of Gibson Precentor Martial Trent Arian Precentor Demona Aziz Precentor ROM Alexander Kernoff NEW BATTLEMECHS ComStar Nexus ComStar Raijin Word of Blake Grand Crusader GAME SUPPLEMENT Comstar Archetypes

7 8 8 9 9 10 11 11 11 11 14 14 14 15 16 16 18 18 18 19 20 24 24 25 25 26 28 28 29 31 32 33 35 35 39 44 44 46 49 50 51 51 51 52 53 56

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59 59 59 61 62 64 64 65 66

67 67 69

72 75

76 76 77 80 81 81 82 82 84 86 87 89 89 89 89 90 90 91 92 93 95 95 96 96

97 97 97 98 98 100 102 104 105

COMSTAR Writing Blaine Pardoe Development Mike Nystul Editorial Staff Senior Editor Donna Ippolito Assistant Editor Sharon Turner Mulvihill Editorial Assistant Diane Piron Production Staff Art Director Jeff Laubenstein Project Manager Dana Knutson Cover Art Tony Szczudlo Back Cover Art Dana Knutson Cover Design Dana Knutson Jeff Laubenstein Illustration Allen Nunis Mike Jackson Earl Geier Dana Knutson Rick Harris Color Plates Jeff Laubenstein/Scott Rosema Nick Smith Takehiko ltoh Take Kasakura Layout Tara Gallagher Keyline and Pasteup Ernie Hernandez

Author's Dedication : To Cynthia and Victoria with all my love BATTLETECH, 'MECH, BATTLEMECH and MECHWARRIOR are Trademarks of FASA Corporation, registered in the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office. COMSTAR is a trademark of FASA Corporation. Copyright © 1992 FASA Corporation . All Rights Reserved . Printed in the United States of America. Published by FASA Corporation P.O. Box 6930 Chicago, IL 60680

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COMSTAR CLASSIFIED REPORT This classified document is an historical briefing for use by Com Star personnel ranked acolyte and higher only. As part of our blessed Order's Reformation, Primus Mori authorized this document covering the development of our Order from the fall of the Star League to the current schism resulting in the Word of Blake organization. This document provides the facts of each Primus' rise and fall, recounts Com Star's efforts to bring Jerome Blake's vision to the Inner Sphere, and illuminates the missteps certain members made over the years. Our Blessed Order's hopes and concerns for the future, and our understanding of events within the Word of Blake in the Free Worlds League appear in a separate section at the end of this document. This document was transmitted via a secure channel. Notify ROM immediately if any copy received shows signs of tampering by Word of Blake. -Nonda Toolippi, Adept XIX-delta Norash Murrilvellthiun, Adept XV-sigma Adien M'Ripon, Adept I-omega Research Team-chi/ComStar History ComStar Archives, Terra 26 May 3055

SANCTUM BETA LEVEL CLEARANCE CCHD 5263055

INTRODUCTION of HPG transmissions could only be wielded by ComStar adepts, ensuring that no Successor State would attempt to take control of the Star League's technological legacy. One faction of ComStar gradually forgot the true meaning of Blake's vision, however, convinced that its mission lay in conquering humanity rather than protecting it. These apostates reached the zenith of their power under Primus Myndo Waterly, who nearly succeeded in handing the Inner Sphere to the Clans. Only Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht's intervention prevented Myndo Waterly from destroying humanity in order to save it. Focht, a true disciple of Blake and a long-time opponent of Waterly, ended her misguided rule by forcing her retirementfrom the primacy. Waterly's successor, Sharilar Mori, has launched a much-needed reform of our blessed Order. Under the leadership of Primus Mori and the Precentor Martial, ComStar has returned to fulfilling its original purpose as the enlightened guardians of the Inner Sphere. [ComStar no longer represents the word of Blake. Primus Myndo Waterly carried Blake's true vision in her heart and in her leadership, and the traitors Focht and Mori cut her down before she could bring to fruition Blake's grand design. This document is their version of events from Com Star's inception, and they have rewritten history to serve their ends. We have corrected the most blatant revisions that the "New ComStar" presents here as truth, but read critically. We in the Word of Blake fight to preserve Blake's true intent: we offer asylum to all who believe in Primus Waterly's vision for humanity's future. Captain-General Thomas Marik will soon take her place, to lead us forward to our destiny. Join us, and help redeem the Inner Sphere!]

ComStar is dedicated to fulfilling a single, divine mission: preserving the glorious Star League's technological legacy in order to prevent a new Dark Age. Founded in 2788 by the Blessed Jerome Blake, Com Star guards and maintains the hyperpulse generator communications network and other valuable technologies developed during humanity's golden age, guarding knowledge that might have been lostforeverwere it not for the foresight of our Blessed Founder. Blake recognized two great responsibilities in the wake of the collapse of the Star League: preserving as much of the currently available technological knowledge as possible, and preventing the Successor States from seizing the interstellar communications network and misusing it to destroy each other. In 2788, Blake took control of Terra and declared it a neutral world. He offered secure interstellar communication to all Successor States that would pledge to respect the neutrality of the hyperpulse generator stations and personnel. The Inner Sphere leaders recognized that open communications were crucial to their survival, agreed to Blake's demands, and the blessed Order of ComStar was born. Blake created the First Circuit to administer ComStar's affairs and fostered a "secret brotherhood" mentality among Com Star's members in order to keep the secrets of the Star League safe. After Blake's death in 2819, Conrad Toyama of Dieron took control of ComStar. He replaced its corporate structure with a rigid, religious hierarchy, and shrouded its activities in mystic rituals. Toyama declared himself Primus, the highest authority in Com Star, bequeathing that august title and its responsibilities to every leader of ComStar who followed him. Initially, Primus Toyama's carefully crafted religious mystery served Blake's vision by fostering the belief that the sacred magic

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De Burke theorized that it would be possible to send radio transmissions through hyperspace in much the same way as faster-thanlight ships traveled. Unlike matter, bundles of modulated energy, such as simple radio waves, could be transmitted at a feasible cost and were well within the operational range of modest reactors. If hyperspace transmission of energy pulses could be converted into practical technology, it would make possible _the inexpens!ve, instantaneous transmission of messages to rece1vers up to 50 light years away. For the next 15 years, Professor DeBurke and her research team worked secretly and feverishly on her theories. The culmination of their work was the first HPG station, built just outside the Court of the Star League. The hyperpulse generator was essentially a large "gun" that fired an extremely high-frequency compressed pulse through Kearny-Fuchida space at a target world. The pulse traveled the immense distance instantaneously, just like a ship. Though the energy required for a single transmission was of the same magnitude as for a jump, the range of an HPG pulse was 180 percent to 200 percent farther than the maximum jump distance. When completed, the system would effectively cut the average communication time between Terra and the farthest-flung worlds of the Periphery from over a year to less than five months. The brand-new station transmitted the first HPG message on New Year's Day, 2630. In tribute to past communications pioneers, DeBurke's first message said, "Watson, come quick. I need you." In less than two decades massive HPG transmitters linked more than 95 percent of the Terran Hegemony worlds. The League's member-states were provided with a small number of large transmitters, known as Class A or prime stations, and with a much greater number of Class B HPG transmitters. Under the Star League Communications Network (SLCOMNET), all prime stations transmitted to the other prime stations every six hours. Class B transmitters transmitted every twelve hours to a maximum of three Class A prime stations. The network of Class A stations was known as the First, or Prime, Communication Circuit, while the Class B stations were known as the Outer Communication Circuit. During the later years of the Star League, the massive Department of Communications had to employ private corporations to provide some of its services. Starlight Broadcasting Ltd., for example, provided the necessary personnel to staff the ~ast SLCOMNET's widespread stations. Communications Enterpnses Inc., based on Terra, was the sole provider of hardware to support the vast, intricate HPG network that held the Star League together. Working in unison with the Department of Communications, these corporations played a key role in creating and sustaining man's golden age. This era of peace, prosperity, and expansion lasted some 150 years, from 2601-2750. Unity existed among the stars, yet the member-states of the League continued to fight "hidden wars" during this time, and when First Lord Cameron of the Star League died unexpectedly, leaving his eight-year·old son as his successor, the leaders of the various member-states saw it as a chance to promote their own interests and power. Perhaps most treacherous among these was the Amaris family, rulers of the Rim Worlds Republic, one of the Periphery territorial states of the Star League.

LINKING THE STARS Interstellar communications play a pivotal role in the political, social, and economic survival of the human race. With mankind now inhabiting hundreds of far-flung worlds, rapid communications has become the essential tie that binds. Through the use of hyperpulse generators (HPGs) mankind has the ability to communicate relatively easily and quickly across the vast reaches of space. Before the invention of the HPG, such communication was possible only through simple codes, and it took months for a message to travel across the stars. The history of ComStar is, of course, intimately bound to the history of interstellar communications. The Star League, which was the greatest achievement in the history of the human race, could probably not have risen to the heights of a glorious golden age if not for rapid interstellar communications. Neither the day-to-day administration of the vast un1on of star systems nor the dissemination of scientific and technolog!cal innovations nor the colonial expansion would have been poss1ble without the development of this communications technology. Once the Reunification War was over, the Star League government set about in earnest developing the communications technology still in use today. The leaders of the Star League knew the importance of interstellar communications and invested a fortune in both time and money to develop newer, faster, and better communications. Without the ability to communicate between worlds, it was possible to conduct neither friendly commerce nor war. During the early years of space exploration, messages from Terra to Tharkad took two months to arrive. Until the development of the hyperpulse generator, communications had been limited for centuries to laser-pulse messages or were transmitted via the Star League's version of the Pony Express: a circuit of JumpShips set up at intervals across space. One ship jumped into a system, delivering its message to another JumpShip waiting there to take the message on to the next leg, and so on. Each planet was also equipped with a primitive transmission system that was faster than light, but limited to scanned or fax-type transmissions. These systems, while efficient on a smaller scale, could not handle the volume of data required to run the massive Star League. In 2614, Nicholas Cameron, First Lord of the Star League, appointed Joshua Hoshiko as Minister of Communications. The following year, Hoshiko enlisted Cassie De Burke, a brilliant young professor from the University ofTerra (located near the Court of the Star League) to develop a faster method of communicating across the depths of space. Professor DeBurke, an authority on the fasterthan-light physics theories of the great Professors Kearny and Fuchida, had examined their theses on both hyperspace travel and communications technology. In a disregarded section of one of their papers, published in 2022, Kearny and Fuchida had published hypothetical equations for generating artificial jump points in space. Because the cost would have been astronomical, the scientific community had long since abandoned further study of these ideas. Cassie DeBurke, however, saw infinite possibilities for using them. By applying the physics of FTL space travel to wave particle theory,

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the other member-states. The ranking member among this group was the young Jerome Blake. At age 28, Blake had been the lead operations officer at the A station on the planet Oliver. When Stefan Amaris carried out his bloody coup in 2766, Blake was in the Free Worlds League, taking his first holiday in three years. ~t the time of t~e Amaris coup, Jerome Blake was working for Starlight Broadcastmg Ltd. on permanent assignment with the Star League Department of Communications. He, like other loyalists, sought out the SLDF and volunteered to assist General Aleksandr Kerensky's army in any way possible. With the Prime Communications Circuit either disabled or under Amaris control , General Kerensky assigned the young Blake and his fellow technicians the task of devising a way to maintain and use the remaining Class B stations in the Inner Sphere. [Kerensky was a fool in many ways; the existence of the

When Richard Cameron reached his majority, becoming First Lord 1n 2762, he began a series of disastrous moves that further increased tensions between him and the High Council. The cunning Stefan Amaris pretended to be the young Richard's only friend and ally until he saw the chance to make his own move . With threequarters of the Star League army out fighting in the distant Periphery by 2766, after New Vandenburg and 17 other Periphery worlds seceded from the Star League in 2765, the time was right.

THE AMARIS COUP In late December of 2766 Amaris assassinated Richard Cameron, his family, and anyone else with a drop of Cameron blood, while his troops simultaneously seized 95 of the Terran Hege~ony's 103 worlds. In order to prevent calls for help from reachmg the Star League's other Member States, Amaris made the capture of the Hegemony's HPGs his first priority. General Kerensky immediately called for a cease-fire in the Periphery and declared war on Stefan the Usurper. Though many m the SLDF clamored for an immediate strike against Amaris, the recent Periphery campaigns had stretched Kerensky's forces too thin to launch a successful campaign against Terra. Kerensky solved the problem by attacking the nearby Rim Worlds Republic, Stefan Amaris' Periphery kingdom. Conquest of Amaris' home territory gave the SLDF both the military supplies they needed and the a~tion they craved against the tyrant they hated. Kerensky used the R1m Worlds conquest to buy time, training and building up his troops for e1ghteen months. In 2772, a revitalized Star League Army began its long march toward Terra. During the initial twelve hours of the coup, the Rim Worlds Republican forces controlled more than 70 percent of the HPG stations within the Terran Hegemony. Another 20 percent were destroyed outright rather than risk them falling into the hands of Star League loyalists to warn the rest of the Inner Sphere of Amaris' treachery . With Terra under his heel, Amaris controlled the very heart of the SLCOMNET. He gave explicit orders that HPG personnel were to be captured rather than killed. He knew how complex and difficult to maintain were the HPG systems themselves. He could capture the equipment, but even a madman like Amaris understood the need for properly trained personnel to run the massive but delicate devices. Most of the Hegemony personnel were captured quickly, too stunned by the sudden overthrow of the government to even signal for help. Some did escape and lived in hiding, waiting for the day when the Star League Defense Forces (SLDF) would return. Certain units, like the 3986th North American Infantry Battalion (The New Grunts) took to the wilderness of Hegemony worlds to fight a vicious guerrilla war that lasted until the liberation . Lances of the 191 st Royal BattleMech Division, once the home of the Royal Bl~ck Watch Regiment, survived the initial slaughter of Star League un1ts 1n the Hegemony and lived to join in the liberation of Terra. On New Earth, the chief technician sabotaged the transmitter rather than let it fall into Republican hands. He and his staff were executed for their resistance, but such acts were not uncommon as the mighty Terran Hegemony crumbled . By ~ebruary 2767 only a handful of trained Star League communications personnel were still alive and free. Most of these survived only by chance, being for one reason or another in one of

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JEROME BLAKE Jerome Blake found himself thrust into the saddle of history. Born in 2739 on Terra in the small town of Galesburg in the former North American state of Michigan, Blake was a child prodigy who early in life became interested in engineering. He graduated from the University of Lambrecht at age 16. Like many such prodigies, Jerome Blake was a serious, introverted person. He had little interest in other subjects or activities, and was too shy to make many friends. Much of Jerome Blake's childhood was spent in study , which culminated in his decision to specialize in hyperpulse mathematics and physics when he began his university career. Very little information is available on the early life of Jerome Blake, the boy. This is due in part to the secrecy of Com Star as well as to the order to destroy records that came in the wake of the Amaris coup. The general impression is that the young Blake was basically a loner, awkward and uncomfortable in social situations. Yet history would set this man apart. This single, almost invisible figure of a man would end up ruling the only surviving element of the mighty interstellar government of the Star League . -From Jerome Blake, A Provocative Look at the Man Behind the Machine, by Clark Harter, New Avalon Press, 3037 [It should surprise no one that the Word of Blake has sent our operatives in the Federated Commonwealth a death warrant for the author of this unholy trash. His book portrays the blessed Blake as nothing more than a freak child genius, devoid of personality. Yet Blake 's own journals show the depth of his character. May Clark Harter never sleep, wondering when we will make him pay for his blasphemy against Blake and his divine will.]

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The public viewed Blake and his teams of young men and women as swashbuckling heroes, civilians caught up in the most horrible calamity of all time . Holovids portrayed them as adventurers, yet Jerome Blake 's journals clearly show that the team consisted more of technicians than heroes. [Most of the hapless and primitive historians of the Inner Sphere have downplayed the role of our sainted founder. If not for the efforts of the blessed Blake, the liberation ofTerra would have never been possible. To gloss over such feats cheats history and the people of the Inner Sphere of the truth.] The technicians that were part of Blake's team were ingenious and innovative. When Kerensky's forces retook the world of Carver V, for example, the HPG was semi-operational , but its fusion reactor had been sabotaged by the Amaris forces. In a crude but successful rescue, a lone technician commandeered two crippled assault BattleMechs and hardwired their reactors into the HPG. It was just such cobbled-together field repairs that kept some semblance of communications operating within the Inner Sphere. During the capture of Dieron, Blake personally led the team that reactivated the Class A HPG in the former capital city of Olivet. Deeply entrenched Amaris forces managed to break through the SLDF's defenses around Olivet and began firing on the HPG station. Three of Blake's team were killed outright and he took a head wound in the attack. Though suffering no loss of mental capacity, Blake did lapse into several short comas during his later years-attributed to the injury. [Again we see the heretics writing their own version of reality. In truth these "comas" were times of Blake's greatest inspiration and foresight. In his own journal entries made following these meditations we see his most creative and innovative lessons for our blessed Order. Only thin science would attribute these times of deep meditation to old war injuries.] When General Kerensky heard of Blake's injuries, he had him transferred aboard the flagship McKenna 's Pride for treatment, testimony to the respect the general held for the young man.

accursed Clans is proof of his divine madness. The Word of Blake views Kerensky as the man who single-handedly destroyed the Star League when he abandoned the Inner Sphere forever, taking most of the Star League army with him. Yet even Kerensky saw the holy light that the blessed Blake offered mankind.] Our own archivists have questions about why General Kerensky opted to make use of Blake and the several dozen other surviving HPG techs. It is well known that the SLDF already had its own Communications Command and a wide array of portable HPGs. Blake's journals, however, obliquely answer this question by pointing out that running a station-size HPG required a much wider range of skills than operating a portable. While the SLDF launched the Rim Worlds campaign, Blake set about the task of creating a makeshift Prime Circuit out of those HPGs that Amaris did not control. Though slow and cumbersome, this ad hoc circuit became the backbone of communications for both the SLDF and the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere. Profiting from the technical ineptness of the Amaris forces, Blake managed to tap their HPG transmissions, feeding vital information to the SLDF.

LIBERATION OF TERRA The battle to regain Terra was by far the most bloody of the entire civil war. The SLDF suffered heavy losses against the Space Defense System and the spaceborne Caspers that defended Terra. Jerome Blake had recovered from his wounds of two years earlier, but he and his team played only a minor role during the invasion because Amaris had destroyed Terra's HPG transmitter after Kerensky had recaptured New Earth. Blake landed on Terra once the Court of the Star League had been secured on September 29, 2779. He had witnessed the horrors of the Amaris occupation on other Hegemony worlds, but the damage to Terra, his homeworld, was the most devastating. Unity City was in ruins, millions lying dead in the rubble. [According to the journals of the blessed Blake, he fell to his knees and wept upon his landing on Terra, having seen the worst that mankind could unleash upon itself.] The prime HPG station on Terra had been located on the central campus of the University of Terra just outside Unity City. When Blake and his crew arrived, they found the building in ruins. Tied to the HPG transmitter controls were the dead bodies of the operators, killed two months earlier. The station itself was written off as a total loss, only salvageable for a few spare parts.

LONG ROAD TO TERRA Over the next twelve years Kerensky and his army inexorably approached Terra, advancing from world to world . By the end of 2774 Kerensky and his allies had surrounded Amaris on a ring of worlds heavily occupied by SLDF troops. As Kerensky moved ever closer to the final battle for Terra, Jerome Blake volunteered his techs to lead advance communications recon teams. Their missions during landing operations were to restore operations in recaptured HPGs as soon as possible, crucial work because losses in earlier fighting had dramatically reduced the number of Kerensky's portable HPGs. Some of the first landing operations by Blake's special teams became lifesaving missions. With an HPG station returned to operation and under his control, the general could communicate with the other SLDF task forces for reallocation of troops and ships as needed .

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Jerome Blake focused on his initial assignment of restoring communications . Terra, once the heart and soul of the Star League's vast communications network, now relied on back-up and small portable systems merely to communicate with the other worlds of the Inner Sphere. In December 2779 Blake traveled to Hilton Head Island in North America to visit a possible new center for the battered commun ications network. Before the Amaris coup the Department of Communications had begun work on a new, upgraded HPG transmitting station there. The work was never completed , but Amaris had left the facility untouched. Workers for Communications Enterprises Inc. had carefully buried their precious communications equipment, then simply abandoned the complex. Jerome Blake's survey gave him new hope in his dream of repairing the Star League's communications network. Within a month construction resumed on the new HPG site.

On October 10, 2780, the Council Lords convened in the ruins of Unity City to discuss the future of the Star League. Nicoletta Calderon , with the backing of General Kerensky, nominated Jerome Blake for the position of Minister of Communications. Nicoletta argued that re-establishing the HPG network and maintaining it was of key importance to rebuilding the shattered Star League . Jerome Blake had proved to be politically neutral and had demonstrated his administrative and organizational skills during the war. Blake was not present during the deliberations or even aware of his nomination. During the two-day proceedings by the High Council he was overseeing the installation of the primary fusion reactor on Hilton Head Island. When the time came for a final vote , all the House Lords voted to approve Jerome Blake, though John Davion agreed reluctantly. [Even in the earliest of times, the accursed Davion bloodline proved itself to be dangerous and deceitful.] Within a month the same Council stripped General Kerensky of his title of Protector of the Realm . Ten months later, they had still not been able to agree on which of them should become the new First Lord, and their long months of arguments, disagreements, and failed negotiations had left them angry and exhausted. On August 12, 2781 , the Lords of the High Council decided to adjourn for the last time and to return to their respective realms, setting the stage for the complete collapse of the Star League. Blake's appointment was the only other matter the Lords of the Council ever agreed upon. The citizens of Terra and the rest of the Hegemony found themselves leaderless after the devastating war. Protests were immediately launched calling for Kerensky to assume the mantle of power, but without the approval of the High Council. Kerensky turned down the call. In the eyes of Terrans, Jerome Blake seemed to be the next logical choice to lead the government and the reconstruction effort because he was the only existing Minister of the Star League . For the most part he remained an unknown figure, an administrator who did not seek public exposure. [Again the heretics of ComStar play down the savior role that Blake assumed. His acts more than compensate for the heresy of the current ComStar.) Blake initially balked at the idea of becoming the leader of the Hegemony, desiring only to serve the former Department of Communications. On a tour of Europe and Asia in January 2781 he saw how Terra, the jewel of mankind, had been left to rot by the Council Lords. While making their own efforts to gear up for war, they had lifted not a finger to rebuild Terra, and the world's population was struggling simply to stay alive in the aftermath of the devastating civil war and occupation by the Amaris troops. Surveying the other Hegemony worlds, Jerome Blake found that they had fared no better under the iron rule of Emperor Amaris. Food, water, and power had been reserved for Amaris' troops. The Republicans drained conquered planets, stripping cities and the surrounding countryside of resources and supplies, often causing the loss of thousands of lives. Farmers were told to triple the yield of their farms or die. Universities and instructors suffered as well. Any research project with potential military applications was moved to Terra to be monitored by the Emperor's scientists. The rest of the university was destroyed. Professors who were of no value to the military were either killed or forced to build defenses for the local Republican garrison.

HILTON HEAD Hilton Head Island of Terra's old North America had been an important tourist attraction/resort during the latter years of the Star League. Communications Enterprises had spent enormous sums to purchase most of the island for their new HPG transmission complex. The complex itself was to occupy a large portion of the island . Central to it would be a massive HPG transmitter and computer coordination system for managing the Star League's communications network. The central complex was an architectural masterpiece of marble and ferrosteel , both beautiful and strong enough to survive a direct nuclear strike. Surrounding the complex was to be an enclosed living community for the workers, including housing projects, a massive park, a zoo , a library faci lity, as well as museums and some of the standard tourist attractions. It was to be a model Star League community, centerpiece of the most complex communications network ever created. Hilton Head Complex was half-completed when Amaris launched his coup. Most of the construction workers fled, returning to their families and homes as news of the horrid events unfolded. Those who remained behind carefully and methodically mothballed the remaining construction materials, concealing them from the occupation troops. When the Republican forces of Amaris' 203rd Republican Guards Division (The Sword of Saddam) landed on Hilton Head five weeks after the coup, they found nothing more than a handful of personnel making a meager living in the seemingly abandoned construction site. They set up camp within two kilometers of the central complex, but never stumbled onto the buried materials. -From Hilton Head, Then and Now, Adept Will Kemp, ComStar Archives, January 3039

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RECONSTRUCTION In February 2782 Jerome Blake sent out messages to the Council Lords urging that they appoint someone to oversee the reconstruction effort. He did not seek the position for himself, but hoped to persuade the Council Lords to meet in person to discuss the appointment. Instead, most responded by suggesting that Blake do as he saw fit until they could agree to convene again, which was exactly what none of them ever intended to do. Blake reluctantly found himself holding the reins of the most massive reconstruction effort in mankind's history, despite his personal wishes. [This is a fallacy. Jerome Blake wanted to take over the reconstruction effort. He never once balked at his responsibilities. His own journals refer to the reconstruction as a "challenge of unprecedented magnitude. " Once more we see ComStar twisting the truth to portray our founder as a weak man, when, in reality, he sought only to save the huddled masses of mankind.] Blake ordered all operational HPG stations in the former Hegemony to undertake an immediate census of the survivors as well as an inventory of all necessary supplies. In turn, he used these facilities as a distribution network to move supplies to the hungry masses. The SLDF contributed heavily to the rebuilding effort, primarily by offering transportation and manpower to Blake's informal government. His work in organizing relief efforts for the populace raised Jerome Blake's reputation and prestige among the common people to new heights.

A JEWEL DESTROYED The most visible wound Terra suffered during the war was the devastation of Unity City and the Court of the Star League. During the initial stages of the Amaris coup, Stefan Amaris had deployed a small nuclear device outside the Court in an attempt to destroy the Royal Black Watch Regiment. More than a third of Unity City went up in flames by the end of the day as a result of the blast. The Star League Court was charred black on the north and west sides, but had been designed to survive such an airburst. Adding to the misery was the effect the firestorms had on the once-lush hillsides overlooking the magnificent city. With the ground cover reduced to ashes, the hills became virtually unprotected raw soil. Two days after the coup a torrential rain turned these same hills into a massive series of mud slides pouring down on the inhabitants of the ruined city. More than half of Unity City was entombed by the mud flows, which buried anything less than two stories tall. A standing swamp formed in the west of the city, a cesspool that remains to this day. In recent years ComStar has worked to unearth some of the ruined city, uncovering some important artifacts of life in the Star League capital. -From The Aftermath: Terra After the War, by Randy J. DeCock, Rule Press, 2803

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The reconstruction effort concentrated on Terra, the homeworld of mankind, which had suffered the brunt of the madness of the Amaris rule. Almost every major city had become a vast ghost town . The detonation of more than a dozen nuclear warheads had left some parts of the planet as zones of death and decay. Blake's methods paid off; by 2782 most of Terra's population was being housed and fed through efforts coordinated out of the Department of Communications. Blake believed that once Terra was restored he could turn his efforts to the other Hegemony worlds. It was hi~ private hope that the Council Lords would return, but Blake could not know that these were the final acts of the once mighty Star League. In the spring of 2783 Blake issued a command to his techs to abandon reconstruction efforts in Unity City and to seal the Court of the Star League. He directed the SLDF relief forces to assist with the salvage operations of the former capital and the relocation of the surviving population. In his own prophetic words, 'The devastation and death that remained in the once proud capital carries a taint that only centuries can cleanse. Until a new First Lord is appointed, the Court shall remain sealed." All governmental and administrative functions were moved to Hilton Head Island , which had become a massive complex of hurried construction and ad hoc administration. Since the day Blake issued that simple order, the Court has never been used, though it continues to be maintained in pristine condition by specially assigned personnel.

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The civil war was over, but the Star League had collapsed . Military losses alone were staggering. The Star League Defense Forces had dropped from 486 divisions to 113. One hundred million people were dead, four times that many were wounded , and ten times more were left homeless. Equally disastrous was the severe damage inflicted on the interstellar communications network, the lifeblood of the Star League .

asked the commanders who remained behind to pledge their assistance to Blake's reconstruction effort. Jerome Blake concealed the fact of these units' existence, letting the House Lords believe that they too had departed. In his journals of that time Jerome Blake wrote that he felt much like the legendary Dutch boy who had to try to hold back a flood by plugging a hole in a massive dike with his finger.

OPERATION EXODUS

THE FIRST CIRCUIT

When the High Council lords stripped Kerensky of his title of Protector of the Realm, they also ordered him to disband the Regular Army troops to create garrisons for the Terran Hegemony worlds. Though Kerensky's troops were ready to help him overthrow the High Council, the general refused to betray the Star League, the only government that had ever united humanity under one banner. After the High Council members adjourned for the last time, effectively dismantling the Star League, each returned home to build up his or her own military. Many former Amaris troops found employment as mercenaries, and before long the Council Lords were also attempting to recruit among Regular Army regiments. In that era Kerensky traveled routinely and regularly between New Earth, the SLDF's base of operations, and Terra. In late 2783 he arrived to witness the completion of the Hilton Head HPG, one of Jerome Blake's proudest moments. The First Circuit might still be in disarray, but at least Terra could quickly and easily communicate with any stations still functional. After the official ceremony the two men met privately, at which time Kerensky confided his intention to leave the Inner Sphere. He told Blake that when he objected to the leaders of the Inner Sphere attempting to recruit among the SLDF, they had responded by asking for his resignation. On February 14, 2784, the general summoned more than 100 division commanders and an equal number of lesser officers to a secret meeting on New Earth, and together they laid their plans. In an act of sincere respect and friendship, Jerome Blake agreed not to reveal the general's decision to the leaders of the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere. He also tried to persuade Kerensky not to completely abandon the Inner Sphere to the chaos of war that would surely engulf it in the days to come. When Blake saw that the die was cast, the decision forged , he asked the general to speak to those commanders who would remain behind and ask them to support his reconstruction efforts. For the next six months Kerensky's quartermasters quietly acquired more than 200 transports as well as supplies and parts. Preoccupied with their own military preparations, the former Council Lords paid little heed to these preparations. During this time every Star League army soldier was allowed to choose for him or herself whether to stay in the Inner Sphere or join Operation Exodus. More than 80 percent decided to follow their beloved general into the unknown. To the great surprise of the leaders of the Inner Sphere, the Exodus fleet departed known space on November 5, 2784, leaving the former Terran Hegemony defended by only a handful of unorganized SLDF units. True to his agreement, Kerensky had

Three days after the Exodus, Blake had reestablished the Prime, or First, Circuit of the former SLCOMNET. The planets of New Earth, Barnard, Alpha C, Bryant, Procyon, and Dieron became the new First Circuit. It seemed a hollow victory, though, because Blake knew that tensions among the rival House Lords had escalated to the point where all-out war was inevitable. In December 2785 he named the technician Conrad Toyama chief administrator of the Dieron HPG. The young Toyama had joined the Department of Communications shortly after Blake's appointment as minister, and before long earned the older man's respect. That esteem deepened as Blake observed Toyama's fine leadership in his new, important post. As a member of the newly formed First Circuit, Toyama suggested that the Department of Communications was no longer a suitable name for Blake's organization . He proposed that the First Circuit adopt the name of ComStar, a blend of Communications Enterprises Inc. and Starlight Broadcasting Ltd., which had formerly sold their services to the Star League. Blake backed the proposal and from that point forward the organization was known as ComStar. [What our revisionist brothers and sisters have ignored is the way Saint Toyama actually arrived at the name ComStar. While working with a repair crew at the Dieron HPG he accidentally received a brief high-voltage shock. Upon recovering he told of seeing the shade of Richard Cameron, who had whispered the name to him. Such was the enlightened manner in which the name of our original order came to be.] The First Circuit was a small group made up of the chief administrators of the HPG transmitters on the former Hegemony worlds. Jerome Blake drafted a simple, two-page set of parliamentary rules and procedures for running the First Circuit meetings. His document called for a prime administrator to act as chair and president, but gave the First Circuit the power to veto the prime administrator's decisions by a majority vote. Blake's short memo eventually would become part of the Articles of Com Star, the basis of our blessed Order's law.

COMSTAR

OPERATION SILVER SHIELD The rebuilding of the Hegemony worlds continued for two more years. The First Circuit acted as the only governing body on Terra, assuming control of the former Hegemony worlds as well as the ever-growing communications network. As Prime Administrator of the First Circuit, Blake saw the ever-growing armies of the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere as a threat to the weak and virtually unprotected worlds of the Hegemony.

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In his journal entries he prophesied that Terra would certainly be an important prize in any war among the former members of the Star League. As the birthworld of humanity, the planet's value was as symbolic as it was strategic, economic, or otherwise . Blake's deepest fear was that all the efforts to rebuild would be destroyed once more by the Council Lords' lust for power. In a secret meeting with the First Circuit in the winter of 2786 , Blake outlined a daring plan for building a communications network that might survive the violence of the coming wars. Though simple in design, the plan was complex in execution . Dubbed Operation Silver Shield, the plan consisted of three key parts . First was to persuade the leaders of the Great Houses to agree to the neutrality of ComStar facilities, property, and personnel. Second, he would formalize the ComStar Letter of Credit as a common currency for exchange with all Houses for services. Finally, Blake planned to seize Terra and as many of the surrounding worlds of the Hegemony as possible before war engulfed the rest of the Inner Sphere. The action would take the House Lords by surprise, and thus it would succeed. As possessions of ComStar these planets would be neutral and provide ComStar with resources for possible future expansion. The First Circuit members were initially shocked by the sheer audacity of the plan. Others, however, pushed for an even more militant approach, such as refortifying the Hegemony worlds in the event of war. Still others, a small minority, suggested that Com Star sponsor talks with the House Lords, with the goal of restoring the Star League. In the end, Blake persuaded the divided and skeptical First Circu it to back him if his negotiations with the House Lords regarding ComStar's neutrality proved successful. In 2786 he undertook an historic tour to meet with the former Council Lords of the Star League . The goal of his "peace mission" was to protect what ComStar had created and rebuilt. Implementing his plan, Blake told the Lords that the motivation for his visit was

COM STAR

to win neutrality for all Com Star facilities and properties in the event of war. In return, Com Star would continue to maintain communications services, for a fee. That fee would be in a new form of currency, the Com Star Letter of Credit. The introduction of this new scrip had begun a year before with the virtual collapse of the Star League's economic structure. For obvious reasons Blake had not the slightest intention of informing any House leader of his designs to seize and control the former Hegemony. He first met with Archon Jennifer Steiner of the Lyran Commonwealth who welcomed the idea if, and only if, her counterparts among the other House rulers would make the same agreement. In an outright lie Blake informed the Archon that the other Lords had already agreed to the plan, thus securing her approval. As Blake continued with his visits to the Great Houses, he used essentially the same technique to win over the other rulers. By the end of the year he had won promises that the House Lords would guarantee the safety of the communications network if Blake would guarantee ComStar's neutrality. In this farsighted act of diplomacy Jerome Blake saved the interstellar communications network as well as the high technology that had built it. Impressed by the success of talks they had privately thought doomed to failure, the First Circuit enthusiastically accepted Blake's authority and provided him with the base of support he needed to carry out the next step of his bold plan. [To speak of Jerome Blake as a liar in his diplomacy is the highest form of blasphemy. In truth, such a technique has been a standard diplomatic practice for centuries. As a visionary, the blessed Blake knew he must use any means necessary to achieve his ends among the greedy, warmongering House Lords. The unholy ComStar's own records of interviews with those House leaders stand as testimony to this. They quote Minoru Kurita, for example, as saying that, "Accepting the Blake initiative is the logical course. Only a fool cuts his own throat before entering battle.']

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The basic agreement outlining the neutrality of ComStar was a simple three-page document known as the Communications Protocol of 2787. It was signed separately by each of the House Lords , the crowning victory of Blake's diplomatic journey. Though the original document is vague in some areas, it solidly established ComStar's neutrality. Eventually the Communications Protocol of 2787 merged with other documents written by Blake to become the basis for the Articles of ComStar-the laws governing the Order. The timing of the first two phases of Operation Silver Shield was fortuitous. With Kerensky and most of the Star League army vanished from the Inner Sphere, there was nothing standing between the House Lords and all-out war. In December 2786, when Minoru Kurita, Coordinator of the Draconis Combine, declared himself First Lord of the Star League, the other four House Lords quickly followed suit. What would one day be known as the First Succession War, a conflagration of unparalleled brutality, had begun. In the next 30 years the warring leaders of the five Great Houses of the Inner Sphere would cast aside the Ares Conventions, smashing cities, destroying vital industrial facilities, and butchering hundreds of millions of civilians. Few worlds would escape unscathed, and all would be affected by the complete disruption of trade, commerce, and communications. While one by one the Great Houses were entering into the war, Blake met with the First Circuit on March 13, 2788, with revised plans for the military portion of Operation Silver Shield. Instead of attempting to recapture most of the former Hegemony, ComStar would make use of its dwindling resources to seize Terra alone, while stripping all materiel and useful technology from the surrounding worlds. The plan was quickly adopted , and Blake recruited several mercenary BattleMech regiments with the promise that they would be paid out of a huge find of spare parts and equipment that had been discovered near Unity City. Blake then arranged to meet with the former SLDF commanders who had promised Kerensky that they would be loyal to Blake and whose presence on Terra Blake had concealed. ComStar had at its disposal eight full divisions, half of them 'Mech-equipped, and an assortment of smaller units, but more than enough BattleMechs and other vehicles in storage to support a much larger military. Blake appointed General Lauren Hayes of the 151 st Royal BattleMech Division (Ulysses S. Grant Division) as the overall commander of the operation. Hayes' only true local opposition were several companies of House troops stationed on Terra by the various leaders of the Inner Sphere. They had sent the troops to Terra after the Exodus for "internal security" reasons, but the units posed a minor threat at best. On June 25, 2788, 0600 hours TST, all HPG transmitters were shut down. Operation Silver Shield began in silence . The entire event was filmed and documented by ComStar, per orders from Blake and the First Circuit. Prime targets were the remains of ground bases that had once backed up the Star League's space defense system on Terra, most of which fell quickly. Some opposition came from a company of House Davion troops working on a relief effort in Europe. They holed up in Berlin and battled it out with Hayes' troops for five hours before being wiped out. The largest military confrontation during Silver Shield took place in a series of running battles in South America. Two former SLDF Mechanized Infantry Divisions left behind in South America refused to submit to ComStar's sudden use of military force to

COMSTAR

BLAKE'S PROCLAMATION People of the former Star League. I am Jerome Blake, Prime Administrator of ComStar. As of now, 0900 hours Terran Standard Time, military forces under my direct command have seized control of the Sol star system . ComStar is now officially in control of Terra and all former Star League facilities remaining in the system . From this time forward I proclaim Terra and the entire Sol system as neutral under the protection of ComStar, under the terms and conditions ofthe Communications Protocol of 2787. As the previous broadcast has made clear, ComStar has sufficient military force to defend the homeworld of mankind from any aggressor. Our goals are peaceful. We seek the unity and prosperity of mankind. This action was taken to save lives in the devastating war that is unfolding. Com Star will continue to offer its communications services to all member states, as long as the Sol system and our neutrality are honored. -Transcript of ComStar Transm ission T-278806-28-0903:02:01, Alpha Plus Priority

control Terra. Using the Amazon rain forest as a natural defense, these troops refused to give way. Hayes attempted several 'Mech assaults, but found the terrain too difficult to wage conventional warfare. Using a combined attack with the 13th Royal Infantry Division (The Superstition Division) and remnants of the 251 st BattleMech Division's Third Strike Regiment, she finally managed to force the two divisions to surrender, but not until both sides had suffered heavy losses. At the end of 72 hours the First Circuit stations resumed transmission to broadcast scenes of Blake's military takeover of Terra. His willingness to use such blatant force sent a clear message to the former Council Lords that if any of them attempted to attack Terra, it would cost them dearly. Jerome Blake also transmitted a short message to the people of the Inner Sphere. So preoccupied were the House Lords of the Inner Sphere with fighting one another and attempting to gobble up whatever they could of the fallen Terran Hegemony that Blake's announcement took them completely by surprise. Suddenly they were denied access to Terra, the womb of humanity. Documents uncovered by ROM three decades after Operation Silver Shield revealed that Minoru Kurita and Kenyon Marik intended to attempt to seize Terra proper at some time during the First Succession War. The other Inner Sphere leaders would surely have contested such an action with military force. Thus did Operation Silver Shield spare Terra further death and destruction. After Blake's transmission each of the five Lords sent curt messages to Terra, claiming that Blake had betrayed the intent of their previous accords. But none dared challenge him or his control of Terra. Perhaps each one secretly believed that he or she would have plenty of time to deal with the rebellious Blake once his or her army had successfully beaten all other opposition.

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Now that Blake officially, "held the title to Terra free and clear," he sought to consolidate his holdings before the rest of the Hegemony crumbled inward around him. Within five days of the completion of Silver Shield, ComStar DropShips descended on New Earth, the former headquarters of the SLDF. For the next eight days they stripped the facility of every shred of equipment and military hardware, carefully loading up the goods. Everything was transported to Terra and meticulously mothballed, with great pains taken to conceal the vast amount of military hardware recovered. In Blake's own words to the First Circuit, these 'Mechs represented "an insurance policy" against interference by the warring Great Houses.

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who even at his most powerful led a spartan life. As ever, his prime motivation was service to mankind. Blake knew that restoring communications to the most heavily populated worlds meant the improvement of more lives of more people in one fell swoop.]

EXPANSION YEARS Jerome Blake's leadership of ComStar lasted 31 years. During that time he laid the groundwork that would define the philosophy, operations, and structure of ComStar for centuries to come. One of his deep beliefs was that Com Star must retain its purity by remaining somewhat isolated from the"outside world," and he used the organization's bureaucracy and technocracy to accomplish that goal. Any member who discussed even the most mundane technology with outsiders was severely punished and could be expelled from the organization. Being something of a mystic Blake believed that the decline of civilization was a form of punishment that humanity was suffering for its sins. It was also obvious by this time that the scope of the destruction of the wars being fought around him would eventually destroy civilization completely unless some individual or group undertook to guard precious technological and scientific knowledge. This Jerome Blake considered to be ComStar's highest purpose: the maintenance and preservation of human knowledge at all costs. Thus, ComStar became a haven for all manner of technicians, prospering while the rest of interstellar society was tearing itself to shreds. During Blake's tenure ComStar continued to expand its services, improving and upgrading its stations and restoring a regular short-distance mail service to supplement its HPG transmissions. The ComStar Letter of Credit (forerunner of the C-bill) had begun to serve as a medium of exchange between both rival and friendly houses, superseding House currencies in the interstellar marketplace. Under Blake's leadership, the First Circuit, now the absolute governing body of ComStar, barred all but its own members from its meetings and imposed a "secret-society" mentality on its subordinates. An internal security force known as ROM was formed in 2811 (see below) to help prevent leakage of technological information to the outside and to help thwart defection of ComStar personnel to the Successor States. ROM quickly became feared and respected throughout ComStar, punishing not only "treason" but also "doctrinal" (i.e., policy) disputes with dispatch and efficiency. In 2791 the First Circuit created the Com Star Archives Branch to document the massive displaced population of the Inner Sphere. Many families became separated because of the ravages of war, and so ComStar organized a gigantic family/genetic tracking network to assist in reuniting scattered individuals. Also the Sol Administration Branch was formed to oversee the maintenance of Terra, Venus, and Mars and the civilian populations of those worlds.

PROSPERITY AND PRINCIPLES Though Jerome Blake had spent most of his life as a technician and administrator, he now showed a natural talent as a political economist. Until now ComStar had been operating in the red because of its massive reconstruction projects, the organization having run up huge debts with each of the Houses. Through the creation of the ComStar Letter of Credit, Blake now managed to pay off those massive loans. Carefully managing the rate of exchange by manipulating the price of transmissions, he used the vast HPG communications network to take advantage of price/ demand fluctuations as the First Succession War raged on. In the spring of 2802 a jubilant Jerome Blake announced to the First Circuit that Com Star was earning a true profit for the first time since its formation. This picture had its dark side, however. To strengthen ComStar's economic position, Blake often chose to restore the communications network first on worlds that were destined to earn Com Star the most profit. For that reason, more than 50 percent of the worlds once linked to the H PG network were still excluded from communications in 2802, while virtually all contact had been lost with the Periphery planets, worlds lying beyond even the Inner Sphere. Internal audits in 2802 indicated that ComStar had reintegrated almost 40 percent of the former Star League worlds, but that was still far less than during the peak years of the SLCOMNET. Though some historians believe that Blake ignored the Periphery purely out of a profit motive, internal ComStar documents of First Circuit meetings indicate that Blake may have been more motivated by a general mistrust of the Periphery. In at least three direct statements he lays the blame for the destruction of the Star League on the secession of New Vandenburg and 17 other Periphery worlds, the spark that ultimately ignited the greatest civil war mankind had ever seen. It would be several generations before the far reaches of the Periphery could re-establish contact with the rest of the Inner Sphere. [Again we are plagued by twisted truths. When fully researched, it is obvious that the "statements" referred to here have been taken totally out of context. Nor were the blessed Blake's motives as simple or weak as mere profits. Money meant little to Jerome Blake,

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much of the payment as it saw fit to the mercenary unit for necessary purchases and operating capital. Upon successful completion of their contract, the mercenaries would collect the balance (less a second 5 percent handling charge) . Arbitration of contracts by the Mercenary Review Board proved a valuable safeguard on both sides. Any unit failing to perform contracted services after taking an advance would find itself unable to evade Com Star's almost universal reach . ComStarwould inform other potential employers of a rogue unit's actions, and had the power to threaten an Interdiction against any House employing such a unit. Com Star could generally be trusted to return money to the original employer when a unit skipped on a contract, and in the interim, to use the money for profitable investments. To ensure fair dealings on the part of employers as well as those they hired, Blake provided for a panel of ComStar administrators to hear claims concerning breaches of faith and to judge the veracity of complaints. Upon reaching a verdict, the panel would broadcast its findings throughout the Inner Sphere. As the reputations of mercenary units and their employers have a bearing on subsequent negotiations involving other units or Houses, violating contractual terms offered little profit to any concerned. Through the Mercenary Review Board's variety of activities, Com Star functioned not only as a communications service, but also as a mercenary guild, an inter-League criminal extradition service, and a banking house, all of which added considerably through the centuries to ComStar's power and prestige. In 2956, approximately a century and a half after the founding of the Review Board, soldiers of fortune set up the Mercenaries Guild in the Inner Sphere. The Guild was intended to protect the rights of mercenary troops and guarantee certain conditions of employment. Though the short-lived Guild apparently broke up in 2968 over members' inability to abide by Guild standards in contract negotiations, historical research has shown that the Guild fell victim to the organized and determined opposition of Com Star, which saw the Guild as a threat to its own preeminence as a neutral arbiter of inter-House dealings. The only remaining vestige of the Guild is the few, scattered Guild Hiring Halls not taken over by ComStar, where mercenaries and prospective employers can seek one another out. The Mercenary Review Board survived for 300 years until the time of Primus Myndo Waterly's ill-conceived Operation Scorpion, an attempt to impose a Communications Interdiction over the entire Inner Sphere. After she bumbled the attempt, the House Lords refused to acknowledge the authority of ComStar's Mercenary Review Board. Instead they set up a more "neutral" version of the Review Board on the Wolf's Dragoons world of Outreach. {Primus Waterly was no fool. If anything, she saw the threat to the word of Blake and responded as would any loyal member of our Order. Scorpion failed only because of the corruption created within Com Star's ranks by Anastasius Focht and Sharilar Mori. The equally corrupt House Lords declined to accept our blessed Order's mediation, not out of mistrust for Com Star or even the Word of Blake, but because they seek more power for themselves. As Blake saw, this egotistical lust for power will eventually lead to their downfall.]

MERCENARY REVIEW BOARD One of the longest-lasting branches of service Blake founded was the Mercenary Review Board. Developed as a means to monitor and control mercenary contracts, the project might have seemed beyond the traditional scope of Com Star, but each of the House Lords responded with enthusiasm to Blake's proposal for such a board. The Mercenary Review Board allowed ComStar agents to serve as brokers for all mercenaries and their employers in the Inner Sphere. After negotiating a contract, an employer would turn over the full amount of money (plus a 5 percent handling charge) to local ComStar authorities. ComStar, in turn , would advance as

GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE Many people do not realize that the ComStar Mercenary Review Board was not formed as a result of some vision of Jerome Blake, but rather at the request of Draconis Combine leader Minoru Kurita. In the winter of 2789 all the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere were having problems with mercenary units. These scum often fled in battle or sought to blackmail their employer for higher fees in the middle of a fight. Their lack of morals and ethics made them undesirable as warriors , yet the Combine had little choice but to use them. During the campaign for lmbrial Ill I learned personally of their deceitfulness when the 201 st Republican Lancers (The Longhorns) were sent into battle, only to turn and flee. Had I the airpower to spare I would have shot their DropShips to dust. We won the battle despite the heavy losses caused by their betrayal. In a transmission to Jerome Blake, Coordinator Minoru Kurita mentioned the growing unruliness of the mercenaries. I was present and saw the content of the message. Minoru suggested the creation of a policing agency that was neutral yet served all Houses. Imagine our shock when only a week later Jerome Blake announced the formation of something to be called the Mercenary Review Board, claiming that he had devised the concept. History had once again cheated the Dragon. [To take the word of one of the most vicious warlords ever to char a world to a cinder is foolishness. In this interview Warlord Scobie claims that history cheated his precious Combine of an honor. In truth, it was the brilliance of Jerome Blake that conceived of and created the Mercenary Review Board, just as he did so many other innovations.] -Warlord Scobie (DCMS), quoted in The Mercenary Through History, edited by Allan Dysart, Stewartson Press, FWL Publishing Ltd., 3053

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Blake proposed the immediate creation of a covert security force to protect Com Star's precious HPG network from both external and internal threats. Operatives would work as undercover agents within the ranks of ComStar's technicians, as well as posing as citizens. To be known as ROM, this secret intelligence network would locate threats to ComStar and eliminate them before any damage was done. ROM reported directly to the Prime Administrator. It took a full year for ROM to be activated, at which time Jerome Blake ordered its start-up activities to begin in the Capellan Confederation. By the spring of 2812 ROM had begun to spread its operations throughout the Inner Sphere, but with most of its focus in the Capellan Confederation. The first test of the organization occurred when ROM uncovered a plot within the Confederation to assassinate Robin Bishop, Chief Administrator of the Bryant HPG and a member of the First Circuit. ROM also learned the names of the operatives assigned to the assassination attempt, as well as the time, date, and place. Jerome Blake himself placed the motion before the First Circuit to permit ROM to strike first, killing the would-be assassins.

PUBLIC IMAGE The raging hell of the First Succession War provided Com Star with numerous propaganda opportunities. During the Combine's invasion of Trolloc Prime, for example, ComStar HPG personnel successfully located shelter for more than three thousand refugees. During the Eridani Light Horse's strike against Sendai in revenge for House Kurita's killing of the mercenaries' families, Com Star evacuated more than twelve thousand refugees, sheltering them in three different facilities in the Draconis Combine. Such actions gave Com Star the aura of a benevolent organization in the eyes of the civilians, an image that Jerome Blake encouraged and continued to promote. In 2796 Coordinator Minoru Kurita was assassinated on Kentares IV. In retaliation his son Jinjiro called for the death of every citizen on Kentares, leading to the mass slaughter of more than 90 percent of the world's population. Com Star personnel were not spared. The head of the Kentares HPG station , Nolan Mordiki, continued to transmit news of the horrors he was witnessing, even as the Kurita forces were besieging his station. Though Com Star protocol neither authorized nor approved such an action, Nolan eventually rose to become a member of the First Circuit for his bravery and daring during the massacre. By 2800 the reconstruction of Terra was nearly complete. For the most part the people of Terra had come to accept Com Star as their true government, a kind of benevolent dictatorship under the control of Blake and the First Circuit. [Hypocritical words from those who follow the murderer Focht.] Jerome Blake, meanwhile, continued to be visionary. The war raged around him and his world, a conflagration that Blake foresaw would continue for several generations and that would destroy most of the high technology perfected in the golden age of the Star League . In Blake's own words, "ComStar is the only hope of preserving the future of human beings in the Inner Sphere."

DOUBLE AGENT ROM served a number of functions within ComStar during the Blake regime . Most notable were its actions against the Capellan Confederation in their attempts to bribe members of Com Star to defect. Jerome Blake also used the organization as an internal security force. One of the lesserknown incidents of ROM's early years was the case of the spy Emma Gomez in the spring of 2813. Gomez served as an assistant to the head of the HPG station on Carver V. In reality, Emma Gomez was an agent of SAFE, the Free Worlds League intelligence service, who had managed to penetrate Com Star's ranks. She was feeding transmission coding schemes back to the Free Worlds League and also passing information her station relayed for the First Circuit, especially that relating to ComStar's political positions. ROM detected her actions and placed her under surveillance, even assigning a ROM agent as her roommate. After a three-month investigation ROM trapped Gomez and two of her contacts within Com Star. All were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Phoenix Reeducation Center on Terra. The impact of the Gomez case was minimal in terms of damage to ComStar, but, historically, it was the catalyst to persuading Jerome Blake to increase internal security even further, a trend that escalated to new heights during the Toyama regime. -From ROM: The Blake Years, by Jerrold Lewis, ComStar Press, August 3020

CREATION OF ROM The spring of 2811 brought the proof of Blake's words. Having lost a majority of her nation's technology to the First Succession War, Chancellor lisa Liao of the Capellan Confederation sought to restore her realm's technological base by bribing Com Star technicians to defect to the Confederation. Shortly after the first attempt to entice techs away from ComStar, a group of ''terrorists" attempted to seize control of the HPG station on the Capellan world of Nanking. They might have succeeded, if not for the brave efforts of the station's technicians and chief administrator. Using their knowledge of the station's layout and a handful of weapons, the staff managed to ambush the ''terrorists," killing them all. Though the Capellans denied any involvement in what they called "an act by independent terrorists," the First Circuit called for an immediate investigation. The investigation turned up proof that the Capell an government had sent the "terrorists" to seize control of an isolated HPG as part of a larger plan to gain control of all of ComStar's HPG stations in the Confederation. The evidence was thin at best, but the possibility of an external threat was enough to force the Prime Administrator to act. Jerome

COMSTAR

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All the Capellan assassins were murdered by ROM agents only two days prior to the attempt-a clear message to Chancellor Liao. To underscore his contempt for her audacity, Blake sent a personal message to lisa Liao, subtly reinforcing the fact that Com Star now had the means to defend itself against all threats and had eliminated the current perceived threat to its personnel. Shortly thereafter , intercepted coded transmissions revealed the Chancellor's orders to her Maskirovka agents to cease attempts to lure technicians away from ComStar and to scrap plans to gain control of HPG stations in the Confederation . Though this incident never occurred "officially," ComStar had proof that the new weapon in its arsenal was deadly. Word of the episode was leaked to the leaders of the other Houses so that they , too, would understand that Com Star was prepared to deal swiftly and effectively with any threat.

COMSTAR

As an internal security organization ROM also proved useful in locating weak links within the ranks of ComStar. Any corruption was dealt with summarily, the guilty individuals placed on trial and sentenced to reformatory/re-education camps (prisons) on Terra. As time began to take its toll on Jerome Blake, he occasionally hinted that he might retire from service to ComStar and become a simple private citizen. But with no family ties, Com Star was all that Jerome Blake had. [And all he ever needed or wanted.] As the years passed Blake began to devote more time to writing than to the routine daily affairs of the First Circuit. He often spent months in a private retreat in the foothills of the Green Mountains. He was attended by many devoted followers, among whom was Conrad Toyama. Until his death, however, Jerome Blake remained active in the administration of his vast creation .

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preserve Jerome Blake's body in a specially designed tomb on Hilton Head Island, saying that "he must be displayed as a shining light to all in our ranks." Conrad Toyama was a crafty individual who many ComStar historians now believe carefully and meticulously plotted to gain control of Com Star. None were present in Blake's bedchamber to witness Blake passing on the baton of leadership to Toyama, and none could confirm what might have been Blake's last words to him. It remains a matter of contention to this day, with the strong possibility that Conrad Toyama managed to pull off a nearly perfect coup d'etat, with little or no opposition . [How sickening to hear historians working for Mori and Focht speak of coups d'etat. Note the way the heretics plant their seeds of doubt concerning the sainted Toyama. In his last hours, Blake sought out and called for Conrad Toyama to communicate to him the true meaning, 'the Word," of Com Star. He told him that ComStar alone would be the preserver of humanity's hopes, dreams, and technology when the time came to restore a new golden age. Doubters of Toyama do not fully understand or comprehend the depth of such religious experiences.]

Jerome Blake collapsed and fell unconscious during a meeting of the First Circuit on May 11, 2819. For several years he had been having occasional seizures, believed to be related to his injuries during his years working with the SLDF, but this attack was by far the worst. He was immediately rushed to the Hilton Head medical facility, where he seemed to recover several hours later. The doctors held him for observation, diagnosing his condition as symptomatic of a 24-hour virus. He was released the next day. What no one detected or suspected was that Blake carried a strain of Ultorson's disease, an incurable illness that was almost always fatal. On the night of May 15 he once again felt queasy but resisted his assistants' urging that he return to the hospital. Retiring to his private chamber, Blake insisted that a little rest was all he needed. By the time he summoned help later in the night, it was already too late. The disease had gone undiagnosed so long that nothing could be done except try to ease the pain . One by one the members of the First Circuit visited Blake on his deathbed, the last one being Conrad Toyama. More than simply a follower, Toyama believed Blake to be a kind of prophet, the last hope of mankind. For years he had obeyed every command of Blake's with an almost religious fervor. Some of his fellow members on the First Circuit thought Toyama too fanatic, but his devotion never swayed. [The truth is that the sainted Toyama understood the vision expressed in the words of the blessed Blake. It is slanderous to taint such a visionary with the stain of madness or blind obsession.] During their final meeting, Toyama spent more than an hour alone with Blake. He even took steps to muffle listening devices and to block the security cameras hidden about the Prime Administrator's bedchamber. According to Toyama's own account, Blake died at the stroke of midnight, after the two had spent three unmonitored hours together. It was only later that evidence of Toyama's tampering would surface, raising the possibility that Toyama may have assisted Blake in his death. [Heresy of the highest order! The "historians" who wrote this will surely suffer in the next life.~ Toyama emerged from the leader's quarters with the announcement that Jerome Blake had passed away, and bearing a writ signed by Blake naming him as successor to the Prime Administrator's position. None questioned Toyama's claim, and the members of the First Circuit confirmed him immediately. Meanwhile, Toyama continued to play the role of the grieving follower. [To imply that Toyama was laying any great plan other than to strengthen ComStar is twisted and perverted. Again we see how ComStar has rewritten the true facts to cover their own lies with even more lies.] Conrad Toyama had all of Jerome Blake's private journals moved to a secure area under his personal control. He also ordered the immediate reading of the will of Com Star's founder. With no real family, Blake's testament spoke only of the need to preserve Terra. His will specified that his body be cremated and the ashes scattered over the Court of the Star League. Despite this express wish, Toyama announced to the startled First Circuit that he intended to

COMSTAR

D

A BROTHERHOOD DIVIDED The First Succession War, which lasted from 2786-2821, very nearly consumed the Inner Sphere. Even before Blake's death, disagreement existed within the First Circuit about how ComStar should respond. Those who dissented from Blake's staunch determination that ComStar remain neutral did not come forward, however, until after our blessed founder's death. His influence had simply been too powerful. Conrad Toyama, however, had to contend almost immediately with this opposition. He later claimed that Blake's deathbed message also included the prophecy that high-placed officials within ComStar would attempt to destroy the organization by betraying its ideals. Whether or not Blake spoke these words, Toyama was utterly opposed to ComStar taking an aggressive stance in any of the Successor State affairs. He cited Blake's journals in his arguments to the First Circuit, claiming that in one entry Blake predicted a future day when there would be no more power, no more machines, no more BattleMechs and no more Succession Wars. Only then, Blake predicted, would Com Star emerge from its isolation to rebuild civilization, establishing itself as an enlightened theocracy. Though it was merely a journal entry, mere speculation, Toyama seemed to take the idea as gospel, a prophecy of things to come. Opposing him was a faction led by Herman Schwepps, Administrator of New Earth. This group argued that ComStar had remained neutral for too long. Schwepps and his group wished to restore the Star League by deploying ComStar's enormous, hidden cache of Star League BattleMechs and using it to conquer the war-torn Great Houses of the Inner Sphere. Schwepps and his allies within the First Circuit proposed to launch an all-out attack to regain the Hegemony worlds currently in the hands of the warring Houses. With the Hegemony again restored under ComStarcontrol, the Com Star forces would regroup and strike once more, this time to beat the Great Houses into

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THE PURIFICATION

submission . Knowing Jerome Blake's vehement position against such an interpretation of ComStar's role, the Schwepps group had seen Blake's death as a good time to come forward . If they could not persuade Toyama to the wisdom of their position, then they would seize power for themselves. By July 2819, Schwepps had drafted his plan in a proposal to the members of the First Circuit and Conrad Toyama. The faction also called for the activities of ROM to be brought under control of the First Circuit rather than being directed by the Prime Administrator. In reply Conrad Toyama announced that in Blake's journals and in their long final conversation, Jerome Blake had prophesied that the Inner Sphere would be consumed in generations of war, unprecedented in horror. As Prime Administrator, Blake had for years made numerous similar statements to the First Circuit. Blake had told Toyama that he had forged ComStar to be the savior of mankind, the preserver and holder of technology. Once the corrupted Great Houses of the Inner Sphere had destroyed themselves and their civilization, Com Star would rise from the ashes to reestablish the glorious Star League. According to Toyama, Blake had told him that the mission of ComStar was a sacred one, a divine trust that only true believers were worthy to hold. In an impassioned speech, Toyama said that Blake had entrusted him with the destiny of Com Star as the savior of mankind. As further proof, Toyama would publish Blake's journals for all to read, going so far as to say that these writings of the former Prime Administrator would serve as a new bible for the true followers of ComStar's hallowed mission. He ended his long rhetoric with a call for Schwepps' resignation from the First Circuit. In his own account of the occasion, Toyama claimed that for a five full minutes no one spoke in the First Circuit Chamber, or raised their eyes from the golden star inlaid in the huge room's alabaster floor. He claimed it was because it was the first time the First Circuit had been exposed to the true divinity of Blake's plans for ComStar. In reality they must have wondered at the true designs, indeed, even questioned the mental state of the man now in charge of ComStar. [In truth the misguided followers of Schwepps must have realized that their time, the time of those who refused to believe, was drawing to a close, and that the corrupted future that they sought was neither attainable or possible. They must have seen their foul plans burning to a cinder in the holy light of our mission.] Before anyone could mount a serious rebuttal, Toyama adjourned the meeting, saying they would re-convene two days later to discuss what steps the First Circuit would take to carry out the will and testament of Jerome Blake. The truth is that Conrad Toyama had no intention of reconvening the members of this First Circuit. Within the hour he had summoned Michelle Dupreas, head of ROM, to a meeting. Dupreas, like Toyama, was a devoted follower of Jerome Blake, and quickly fell under the spell of Toyama's interpretation of Blake's words . [Michelle Dupreas was one of the first to accept the true divinity of the word of Blake. To paint her as a simple-minded follower distorts her key role in protecting the future of Com Star. Her actions in the first hours of the Purification prove that her heart was untainted and that she was truly guided by the same vision that had inspired Blake.] Michelle quickly organized her loyal ROM operatives to carry out the most important mission the secret group had ever undertaken.

COMSTAR

Having unleashed the tremendous (and largely unseen) power of ROM, Toyama triggered a purge on a scale never before witnessed anywhere or at any time in the history of the Inner Sphere. Within 48 hours ROM agents had assassinated four of the six members of the First Circuit. The last to die was Herman Schwepps, from whom ROM interrogators pried the names of many of his supporters and allies before he was shot in an attempt to escape from his captors. [Our heretic kin called this a "purge," but the truth is that this was a purification, a time of cleansing. Primus Toyama understood that if he did not purify Com Star's leaders, the organization would rot from within. This he could not permit, for only through Com Star could Blake 's holy dream be fulfilled. Though violent, the Purification gave ComStar a more righteous order for future growth.] Toyama's purge did not stop with the First Circuit but penetrated throughout every level of ComStar. Anyone who ROM or Toyama considered even remotely suspicious or untrustworthy became potential targets. Technicians who had signed on to work for ComStar merely to earn money were suddenly transferred to "re-education camps" located in isolated areas of Terra. These were gulags of torture and slow death for many. [As with much of this alleged history, this claim is heavily tainted. In almost all cases, those who died in the Purification did so while attempting to escape. Many members interned in these camps were released after they had rediscovered the true meaning of Blake's word and will. To call these re-education centers death camps is irresponsible and deprives history of the knowledge of their true purpose.] Many others who had even casually questioned the goals of ComStar, Blal:(e, or Toyama's interpretation of Blake's ComStar ideals were assassinated outright. At the end of the purge, a full20 percent of ComStar's technicians were either dead or imprisoned for life. The entire operation took place in less than a week, far too swiftly for anyone either inside or outside Com Star to do anything about it. Toyama appointed his own supporters-all trusted members of ROM-to replace the vanished members of the First Circuit. In a matter of mere hours and days, ComStar had completely transformed, and the rest of the Inner Sphere remained ignorant of the unfolding events. Toyama convened a meeting of the new First Circuit on July 26, 2819, and announced changes to the structure of ComStar to be implemented immediately. With all opposition imprisoned or dead, no one opposed Toyama's bold reformation measures. Stating that Blake's prophesy would become the focus of the new ComStar, Toyama announced the dismantling of ComStar's corporate hierarchy and the creation of a more plutocratic structure to be known as the ComStar Order. Trainees of "the Order" would now be known as acolytes, and technicians as adepts. The position of Prime Administrator was renamed Primus, and the planetary administrators became Precentors, with their support staffs known as Demi-Precentors. Pervading all levels of the organization (and responsible only to the Primus himself) was ROM, helping to ensure total obedience to the dictates of the First Circuit. Perhaps the most revolutionary of all these sweeping changes was the requirement that membership in ComStar become a lifelong commitment. Having joined ComStar, the individual would die

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as a member. Given the ever-present threat of ROM after the purge, none dared raise a voice in disagreement. [ROM is not a force of death and destruction, as implied here, but instead is exactly what Blake intended it to be: an internal security force for the protection of our blessed Order. ROM is no cult of assassins. We rely on its agents to preserve our blessed Order, to keep the peace, and to maintain our security.] Following Blake's precedent, Toyama continued to hold First Circuit meetings in strict secrecy. These meetings created an air of internal paranoia within ComStar, but added a layer of mysticism to the organization 's public image. Toyama had laid his groundwork well. When the leaders of the Inner Sphere learned of the purge, some, such as House Davion, offered sanctuary to any technicians wishing to escape the long arm of ROM. Primus Toyama contacted Prince Paul Davion and informed him that any action on the part of House Davion to shelter the "renegades" from ComStar's "internal investigation" would result in a complete shutdown of communications services for that state. Within 72 hours the refugees were returned to the ComStar Precentor of Caph. When the other Houses learned of the incident, none of their leaders dared to interfere in Com Star's internal affairs, unwilling to risk the loss of communications in the midst of interstellar war. The seemingly overnight transformation of Com Star was not without risks. Toyama knew that the key to Com Star's power was maintaining control over technology and communication . Through ROM he tracked and killed anyone who attempted to "escape their holy obligations" to the Order.

[They lie in the smallest and largest details in their quest to twist the facts to their own ends. The heretic Focht murdered Primus Waterly-there is no mystery about her death. And how quaint that Focht's demons have sought to rewrite history as far back as tainting the word of our blessed founder. Anyone who has read The Word of Blake must recognize it as an insightful and deeply religious tome that reveals the true destiny of the Inner Sphere. Some have compared this holy book to the prophesies of Nostradamus, a guiding light in the darkness of the Inner Sphere. Any other implication by ComStar's so-called "historians" is rubbish.) By 2820 Primus Toyama had full control of ComStar. Under Dupreas, ROM had extended the purge to its own ranks, further solidifying its power and fearsomeness. Toyama had also deepened the Order's mystical trappings; his great love of ceremony led him to develop elaborate rituals for important events and contacts with the outside, from initiating a new acolyte to interdicting a world or state from Com Star services. In 2820, the Primus embarked on a tour of the capitals of the Great Houses to meet with each of the Inner Sphere leaders. The publicly announced goal of this diplomatic mission was to explain ComStar's new organization and structure. In reality, Toyama wished to explain personally to each House Lord how he had prevented a "renegade" First Circuit (under Schwepps) from attacking the Inner Sphere, supposedly using mercenary troops. In light of the good tidings he carried, Toyama levied a 15 percent increase in transmission costs, claiming it was needed to "rebuild" ComStar's damaged infrastructure. The various lords of the Great Houses gave this "good news/bad news" approach a rather cold reception, but offered only token resistance. The only House leader who balked overtly at the price increase was Archon Richard Steiner of the Lyran Commonwealth. He would not make public appearances with the Primus, and only agreed to the new terms after what Richard claimed was "nothing short of diplomatic blackmail." The Lyran Commonwealth remained a constant thorn in the side of Toyama's public image in the Inner Sphere. Archon Richard Steiner often questioned ComStar's motives in barely veiled criticisms, at times even hinting that he suspected the organization was a front for an eventual attempt to take over the Inner Sphere. Archon Richard Steiner was the only House Lord to ever publicly speak out against ComStar or to deduce Toyama's true motivations. [Nowhere did Toyama state that he sought to take over the Commonwealth. Again ComStar's heretic historians have tainted the truth. Any ills that the Commonwealth suffered during this period were brought about by their own lust and greed.) Matters boiled over when the Archon persuaded the Estates General to pass the Reclamation Act of 2823, requiring that ComStar's profits and property be taxed the same as any other "business" operating in the Commonwealth. The Primus knew he must react swiftly and decisively before any other House leader decided to follow suit. The Primus called a special session of the First Circuit when the first of the Commonwealth's tax bills was due, the fall of 2823. Toyama persuaded the First Circuit to pass the Exclusion of Tharkad Act, which called for ComStar's first Communications Interdiction against one of the Successor Houses. On October 3, 2823, a copy of the Act was transmitted to Tharkad and delivered to the Archon. Immediately afterward, the Tharkad Precentor shut down the capital's hyperpulse generator while ROM operatives removed and concealed the station's vital communications cir-

THE WORD OF BLAKE Secure in his power, the Primus now saw a way to give the loyal disciples of Blake a true direction. Poring through the journals of Jerome Blake, he culled and published what he believed was the essence of the founder's thought and vision. Four months after the purge , Primus Toyama presented the First Circuit with the first copies of The Word of Blake, published excerpts from Blake's journals selected, annotated, and interpreted by Toyama himself. These writings he presented as proof of Blake's vision of the future of the Inner Sphere. The Word of Blake spread throughout ComStar and served Toyama's purpose in providing the Order with a clear path and direct guidance. The book became required reading for all members of ComStar. In its long and sometimes rambling passages, Blake seemed to indicate that he had conceived of ComStar as a religious order years earlier, an idea that was consistent with Toyama's vision of the organization as the salvation of humankind, the keeper of truth and knowledge. It is interesting to note that it was only a year ago, in 3052, that the original journals of Jerome Blake were unsealed for the first time since the era of Primus Toyama, upon the mysterious death of Primus Myndo Waterly. The originals reveal that Toyama distorted or completely corrupted the true meaning of Blake's words. Indeed, entire passages, including some revealing Blake's impressions of Toyama, are missing or so badly damaged as to be incomprehensible. We must now conclude that The Word of Blake is nothing more than a collection of half-truths and exaggerations put together by Conrad Toyama.

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cuits. Adepts and other support personnel were evacuated offworld by a DropShip before the Archon could respond . The impact and message of the Exclusion of Tharkad Act were loud and clear. Primus Toyama had, in one swoop, shown the House leaders that he was not afraid to use ComStar's power. The Interdiction lasted almost a full year with little, if any, diplomatic communication taking place between the Commonwealth and Toyama's ComStar. Richard Steiner eventually bowed to public pressure in early fall 2824 and asked the Estates General to rescind the Reclamation Act. Within 72 hours of the announcement, the Tharkad HPG was reactivated and once again processing messages.

In the fall of 2824 the Primus undertook another series of diplomatic visits to the governments of the Inner Sphere, basking in the success of his political showdown with the Commonwealth. The goal of this mission was much simpler: recruitment. When ComStar became a quasi-religious organization, applications for membership dropped to a virtual trickle . Many war-weary civilians were unwilling to make a lifelong commitment to the Order or simply did not accept the Word of Blake, viewing Com Star as some sort of mystic cult. Even on Terra, where ComStar had controlled the civilian government since 2788 , the ranks had diminished since Toyama's rise to power. Several members of the First Circuit accompanied the Primus,

OUR MASTER'S VOICE? The following passages present direct quotes from Blake's journals, followed by sections beginning with an asterisk (*), that indicate interpretations and in-depth explanations added by Primus Toyama.

survival is guaranteed during the war of succession that the House Lords currently wage . Only by patterning ourselves after those religions that survived in the past will ComStar live on to the future .

On the Operation of ComStar The ideals of my followers must be higher than the petty, greedy politics of the House Lords. Politics is a game best played by madmen, and I am not mad ...To use information to manipulate politics is tempting and, in many cases, justified .. .ComStar has one edge over the Great Houses: we control information and commun ication , tools more powerful even than an army of BattleMechs. There is a time to fight-to use some of the force we have accumulated-but this is tempered by the knowledge that it is better to allow our foes to pummel each other silly rather than be forced to attack them directly. Better to dance with the devils (House Lords) than to stoop to their level. [Salvation 4:1-17] *Blake has outlined how ComStar is to respond . Use information and other ploys to manipulate our foes . Force is a last resort. He also indicates that it is better to deal with the House Lords through guile than to lay all our cards on the table. It will be Com Star's goal never to take part directly in conflict, but to make use of our greatest tool , information, to wage our wars. There will be times to use force , but those are the exception rather than the rule .

On the Fate of Mankind The war of succession that has consumed the fallen Star League is more horrible than any other before ...A new Dark Age will descend on the Inner Sphere if this war continues for any length of time , people will be scattered on hundreds of isolated worlds and left to the fates, our priceless technology become no more than impotent magic in their hands ...This endless war has no winner, with all of mankind the loser in the dark and dismal end. (The Fall 1 :1-13] *The blessed Blake sees the raging tide of war as one that will consume mankind, bringing about an age of darkness and despair. Technology will become worthless, as the factories and required skills disappear in the holocaust of this ongoing conflict. On the Mission of ComStar Terra's neutrality under our control guarantees that no matter what the leaders of the Inner Sphere do, something of the Star League and mankind will survive. Once the Great Houses have beaten themselves senseless and bloody, we can emerge, offering a new chance to recover what they have tried so hard to destroy. All that saved mankind during its last so-called Dark Age were the churches and religions . These were havens for humanity's learning and they stood alone as beacons in the darkness and foulness that humankind had become, to preserve the history and knowledge ... If Com Star is to survive into the future, it must look to these religions as a blueprint for surviving the wars that are unfolding around us.(Salvation

On the Future of ComStar I believe a day will come when the fighting ends and we can emerge as the saviors ...The victories will come for us one world at a time-then one House at a time-until we control everything. Mankind will not resist but will invite us . to help rebuild , as we have done with blessed Terra. [Salvation 4:61-70] *Blake has foreseen the day when ComStarwill rule the worlds of the Inner Sphere. Mankind will openly invite us to rule because we have, by divine foresight, saved all knowledge for the time of the great rebuilding . -From The Word of Blake, First Edition, ComStar Press, 2820

4:18-24] *In this one passage , Blake has laid the foundation for the mission of Com Star, to thrive and to survive to re-light the lamp of civilization for mankind. Blake also foresees that by creating an oligarchy as the basis for ComStar, the organization 's

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Star League troops had returned, it would spell an end to the prophesy of Blake and the future of ComStar. . . The First Circuit responded by dispatching a dozen d1plomat1c envoy vessels to the Periphery area surrounding the Combine. These ships were charged with the mission of establishing and opening diplomatic relations with the mysterious Minnesota_ Tribe. For four months the JumpShips scoured the stars search1ng for some trace of the unit. They were able to follow the trail of the mysterious attackers into the deep Periphery toward the Federated Suns but then all trace seemed to disappear near Valent1na. Subs~quent investigations by ROM failed to uncover further information on the attackers. The First Succession War had wound down by 2821, more from exhaustion than any true reconciliation. By as early as 2815, near the end of this brutal conflict that spanned more than 30 years, the warring states had lost most of their FTL shipbuilding capacity. Each House concentrated economic resources into military production so intensely that they forced a major drop in the production of consumer goods, creating a severe decline in trade. This proved

ORIGIN OF THE COMSTAR LOGO The design for the famous symbol of Com Star, a circle star with two downward-pointing beams, was commissioned by Primus Conrad Toyama in 2823. Knowing the value of a visual symbol to unify any organization, he announced a competition to choose an emblem for ComStar. More than 800 entries were submitted, and the Primus judged them personally. The winning entry was submitted by Adept Stanfield K'wani. In his own words, the dark outer circle represents the dark times prophesied by Jerome Blake. The original drawing showed a star within the dark circle but the Primus modified it, removing all but two star points, leaving the rest as spokes circled in black. According to Toyama the star represents the light of mankindtechnology and the enlightenment of Blake's words. Once the prophesies of Blake had been fulfilled the image would reclaim its star points. The most striking aspect of the ComStar logo are the two star points. On the original design these were as they are now, elongated and pointing downward . According to the designer Adept K'wani, "the point on the right of the image represents communications and the other represents technology, the two bases of ComStar's true source of power in the Inner Sphere." [It is a shame that such a symbol of purity has become tainted by the likes of Anastasius Focht and the bitch-Primus Mori. They defile the image. We of the Word of Blake maintain the symbol's true meaning by placing it in the hilt of our broadsword. In this way, we remember our common origins and the common destiny that we will one day share.] -Adept Sheila Sooter, ComStar Archives File 7760356-0GDN, April2825

but this time the itinerary took them to the worlds of the Periphery rather than to the capitals of the Inner Sphere. On those planets Toyama found many recruits willing to join ComStar and support his cause, if only to improve their lot in life. The trip lasted a year and a half and was a great success. [The Word of Blake offers much more than a means to improve one 's material well-being; it provides direction and purpose. Yes, it is true that we seek to enhance the lot of the less fortunate, but there is more to it than that. Seek the inner peace that only the Word of Blake represents.] In 2825 Precentor Judy Cheny of Barnard proposed a startling new concept to her feilow First Circuit members. She suggested that ComStar develop its own news-gathering and dissemination service to supplement its communications services. If the masses received their news from ComStar, the Order could easily use information to sway public opinion. Though the idea was originally proposed as another recruiting tool, the Primus recognized it as a powerful new resource for ComStar. By 2826 the C?m~tar News Bureau was in operation, with Precentor Cheny as 1ts f1rst head. Primus Toyama seemed to hold the Inner Sphere firmly in his grasp when a threat to his dreams suddenly appeared from bey~nd the Periphery. The attack of the Minnesota Tribe on the Comb1ne worlds of Svelvik and Trondheim in 2825 shook ComStar as much as the Draconis Combine. Proceedings of the First Circuit indicate that Toyama believed the attack was the vanguard of Kerensky's return with the Star League Army, a belief supported by reports that this unknown military unit possessed brand-new BattleMechs and used combat tactics similar to those of the SLDF. If the self-exiled

COMSTAR

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sensationalize the damages and losses from Jinjiro Kurita's infamous "Chain Gang " raids, so christened because House Kurita recruited the raiders who fought them from the ranks of disgraced warriors and the criminal class. Promising rich rewards , Jinjiro gave his three regiments of social misfits rudimentary BattleMech training , dropped them on target worlds in 'Mechs one step from the junk heap and left them to fend for themselves. Though many Chain Gang units surrendered at the first hint of battle , some fought ferociously , laying waste to towns and industries in their path. Primus Toyama believed that exaggerating the damage might help rally public support for retaliation . Toyama relaxed somewhat when Chancellor lisa Liao led a driving attack into the Federated Suns, but her strike failed , costing lisa Liao her life. Apparently the leaders of the Great Houses were not yet ready to plunge once more into all-out war. In the years 2821-27, each attempted to rebuild his military, assigning the surviving scientists and engineers to those few worlds whose industrial capacity had not been destroyed. Tensions were again beginning to build along the borders of each rival state, but Primus Toyama could not wait any longer. Deciding to move matters along according to his own agenda, he conceived Operation Divine Intervention and proposed it to the First Circuit in early 2827. One part of this plan would play off the emotions of Jinjiro Kurita to lure the Draconis Combine into reigniting war in the Inner Sphere. Using the vast resources of ROM, ComStar began to filter information about the composition and movements of the Draconis Combine Military Forces and the inner workings of its Internal Security Force to the Lyran Commonwealth's Loki agents. At the same time, the ComStar News Bureau played up the raids and border tensions between the Free Worlds League and the Commonwealth. By 2830 Jinjiro Kurita was on the verge of madness, infuriated at being constantly outmaneuvered by the Commonwealth during his raids . He never realized that his military failures were due to ROM agents leaking troop movements to the Commonwealth. In 2830 Jinjiro launched an all-out offensive to restore the honor of his troops and his realm. Combine forces also struck at the Federated Suns, which was still attempting to recover from the Capellan Confederation's last offensive. Primus Toyama was still not satisfied , however, because the Free Worlds League had managed to stay out of the fray. He wanted all the Houses at each other's throats. Even more tempting was the idea that if Toyama's plan to lure the League into the fight was successful, that fractured realm would eventually be ripe to become a ComStar state! By the time Toyama's reign ended, the rigidity of the Com Star structure , the wide-ranging authority of the renamed Primus and Precentors of the First Circuit, and the all-pervasiveness of ROM had proved to be an effective combination. More and more of the litany and ritual of Com Star ceremonies became necessary for the accomplishment of ComStar operations. During Toyama's primacy, a ComStar acolyte might have uttered the "necessary" invocation prior to activating an HPG only because he feared a ROM agent would call him out if he did not. Less than 50 years later, a less sophisticated acolyte might utter the same invocation because he believed that the HPG would simply not function if he did not. The rituals created by Toyama took less than two generations to become ritual magic, in the shadow of the saintly figure of the blessed Blake.

particularly disastrous for those worlds relying on high-tech water purification equipment. Without proper maintenance or spare parts, many of these facilities began to fail , forcing populations to abandon the worlds or return to ices hip technologies. By the war's end in 2821 , water-rich planets had again become as strategically valuable as they had been 400 years before. Only rumblings of armed conflict remained between the Houses. Without a raging war in the Inner Sphere, Toyama saw no way for ComStar to achieve its full zenith of power. Indeed, he sought to reignite the flames by ordering the ComStar News Service to

WHO WERE THOSE MASKED MEN? Our operatives on Richmond managed to penetrate the Combine's investigation team studying the attacks by the so-called Minnesota Tribe. The only concrete evidence recovered thus far has been the body of one of the MechWarriors of the Tribe . The pilot was using a Lance/at BattleMech of exceptionally high quality. Of great interest was the MechWarrior's uniform . The coolant suit was an enhanced version of an SLDF prototype that had yet to reach production when Kerensky's Exodus jumped from the Inner Sphere. Naturally, our agent sabotaged the suit so that its design would not fall into Combine hands. Though the warrior carried no personal effects, his suit displayed two interesting patches. One was the outline of the former North American state of Minnesota, with the numbers "331" faintly stitched on it. Our own archives indicate that the number and the symbol are similar to those used by the SLDF's 331 st Royal BattleMech Division (The North American Division) that left the Inner Sphere with General Kerensky. The resemblance is strong but the symbols are not identical , indicating that the patch was new rather than an old one reworked . The second patch was also revealing . It depicted a Terran wolverine, white in color, with bloodied fangs. Our searches have revealed no correlation or connection to the designation of any known military unit, meaning that it is a new or reorganized unit. We conclude that this unit is indeed a surviving element of Kerensky's Exodus. Though we cannot substantiate this with physical evidence, the above items recovered point to a strong connection with the Exodus fleet. It can also be assumed that this unit has an existing technological and manufacturing base. Unfortunately, it has been impossible to determine either the current location or the destination of these raiders. -From a summary report to the First Circuit by ROM Precentor Emilio Travis, Minnesota Tribe Investigation , Archive File 222-802, ComStar Archives

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much more difficult for agents to infiltrate governments than it ever had in the pre-war era. Unable to rebuild his network, Charles turned to the only organization whose access to the entire Inner Sphere was virtually unrestricted-ComStar. In February 2830 Charles Marik met privately with Jeannette on Irian during one of her many trips to the Free Worlds League. He asked her to use her Com Star connections to intercept communications regarding the military intentions of the Lyran Commonwealth and the Capellan Confederation. Adept Jeannette agreed to do so, then immediately brought the request to the attention of the Primus. Toyama finally had the tool he needed to bring the Free Worlds League into the Second Succession War. The Primus told Jeannette that her brother's request was treasonous to Com Star and that Charles was only seeking a pretext for a war with the Lyran Commonwealth . To prove it, he asked Jeannette to give her brother a document purporting to be a message from the Lyran court to the commander of the Skye Rangers. The message contained plans for an invasion of the Free Worlds League, with detailed orders to the Skye Rangers to strike against the worlds of Graham IV, Castor, and Callison. Ever-obedient to Primus Toyama, Jeannette passed the seemingly important transmission on to her brother on June 13, 2830. In the Primus' own words, "the fish has taken the bait." [This "re-written" historypaints Jeannette Marik as an innocent lured into the clutches of an evil Com Star and manipulated by a diabolical Primus bent on conquest. The reality is less exciting and more accurate. Our own historians have found evidence that it was Jeannette Marik, rather than the sainted Toyama, who developed the plan to deceive her brother. Even if Com Star's account of the matter were true, not all the blame can be laid on the shoulders of Conrad Toyama. Surely Jeannette must share some blame for the affair.] Charles never questioned the authenticity of the smuggled message. After the savagery of Marik's conflict with the Lyrans in the First Succession War, he had no reason to believe House Steiner's denials that they planned to attack. Rather than be caught unprepared, Charles ordered his troops into a state of full readiness and developed his own plan of attack, hoping to preempt the supposed Steiner invasion. Marik also tried to open diplomatic channels, but it was too late. Both sides had become too wary, Marik of the supposed Steiner threat and Steiner of Marik's military build-up. As Primus Toyama had hoped, Marik's orders to beef up his border with the Commonwealth forced the Commonwealth to do the same. Neither side suspected the hidden hand of ComStar in this carefully manipulated dance leading to the brink of war.

In June of 2821 Primus Toyama received word from the Precentor of Atreus that Jeannette Marik, sister of Captain-General Charles Marik, wished to join ComStar. The Primus was jubilant, for this opportunity was the chance he had been waiting for to penetrate to the inner circle of one of the Inner Sphere's Great Houses. The Primus himself attended Jeannette's indoctrination and training sessions to determine whether her intentions were indeed sincere . Under orders from Toyama, Jeannette Marik received indoctrination far beyond the standard and was brainwashed by the Order. The Primus assigned various ROM agents to her training, and they regularly dosed her with dilcostat, a Star League-era drug used for mind control. Under the influence of dilcostat, Jeannette Marik's mind became so impressionable as to be a virtual sponge to absorb the ComStar doctrines pumped into her for weeks and months on end. Having genuinely desired to join the Order, she was even more susceptible to the conditioning. (More lies. The truth is that Charles Marik sent his sister to join ComStar in hopes of using her to obtain intelligence onourOrder. ThePrimus saw the very real need to purge her mind of misguided ways of thinking and false loyalties to the Free Worlds League. This tale of mindcontrol drugs is best left to mystery writers or the sick imaginations of ComStar's current historians-whichever is more twisted.] An extended period of such mental manipulation transformed Jeannette Marik into an ultra-advocate of ComStar and the teachings of Blake. She often accompanied the Primus during his trips through the Free Worlds League, acting as a recruiter. Toyama allowed her to continue to visit freely with her family, then carefully extracted information from her after such contacts . Though the Free Worlds League acquired considerable territory at the expense of the Capellan Confederation during the First Succession War, losses and destruction of worlds on its border with the Lyran Commonwealth more than offset its gains. Desperate for new materiel as the war decimated his industrial base, Thaddeus Marik had stripped SAFE, House Marik's intelligence agency, of funds to finance the manufacture of machines and ordnance. The ferocity of the fighting against Houses Steiner and Liao had cost the lives of Marik agents on countless planets, leaving Captain-General Charles Marik, successor to Thaddeus, with a badly shattered intelligence network. Only a handful of SAFE agents remained on most Lyran and Capellan worlds, and it proved

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prove that this was part of some alleged master plan on the part of Primus Toyama, however. It is just another of the smear tactics being used to undermine the authority of the man to whom we owe our current formation and organization. The truth is that ROM identified at least six Com Star adepts who passed military information to the Free Worlds League, all with the aid or prompting of Jeannette Marik. Any one of these could have played the role of grand saboteur, but no known evidence exists to link them to any plan or operation devised by the sainted Toyama.]

DANCE OF DEATH The Free Worlds League entered the Second Succession War when Charles Marik ordered his troops to attack Zwenkau and Senftenberg along the Marik-Steiner border. The order for the offensive of August 2830 was based almost solely on the intelligence information provided by Jeannette Marik and her contacts within ComStar-intelligence that was totally fictitious. Within a matter of weeks the border between the Free Worlds League and the Lyran Commonwealth was ablaze with attacks, counterattacks, and lightning raids. Primus Toyama was thrilled by the success of his plot. Using Jeannette Marik as a pawn, ComStar had been able to directly manipulate a state of war between two major Houses of the Inner Sphere. The Primus, in his meetings with the First Circuit, began to further explore the use of this newfound power. Comparing the Free Worlds League to a drug addict, Toyama believed he could hook Marik on the information that Com Star provided, to the point that the Captain-General would do almost anything to maintain that source. Primus Toyama postulated that if House Marik became heavily dependent on Com Star information to wage its war, it would be possible to trick the FWL forces into a series of grave military failures. Seeing the war effort failing, the people of the Free Worlds League would call for a change in leaders, putting Jeannette in line to assume the Captain-Generalcy. In essence, the Free Worlds League would become a ComStar protectorate state. [Com Star's historians write as if this were a solid plan that Primus Toyama laid out step by step. However, the meetings referred to barely touched on the subject. Many of the Primus ' comments were merely hypothetical speculations, rather than a plan of action. This is pure fantasy on the part of Focht and his heretics, yet another attempt to undermine the historical foundation of The Word of Blake and the memory of the sainted Toyama.] Between 2831 and 2836 House Marik won a series of grand military campaigns thanks to information fed them by ComStar. Communications on House Liao and House Steiner troop dispositions and movements proved to be extraordinarily accurate and contributed greatly to many of the Free Worlds' most spectacular successes, including the renowned 2832 offensive in which the Fusiliers of Oriente spearheaded a drive through the Commonality of Sarna, seizing the worlds of Berenson, Zion, and Kyrkbacker, and doing extensive damage to the defenders of two other worlds before being driven back by a desperate counterattack. Marik enjoyed similar successful incursions into the Lyran Commonwealth, again because of intelligence provided by Jeannette and her allies. As the Marik juggernaut came to seem unstoppable, the leaders of the other Great Houses began to suspect complicity between ComStar and the Free Worlds League. To conceal her role as a secret agent of ComStar, Jeannette often assigned other adepts to carry her messages. This was the key factor that prevented SAFE from ever discovering whether Jeannette was acting on her own or as part of an overall ComStar conspiracy. Jeannette acted, of course, with the secret blessing of the Primus. (Most of the files in ComStar archives from this period are incomplete at best. It is known that Adept Jeannette Marik did (directly and indirectly) pass some military intelligence on to the Free Worlds League government. No solid evidence exists to

COMSTAR

DARK HOURS, DARK DEEDS Despite his success, Charles Marik was growing increasingly uneasy. Though his campaigns had produced some impressive gains, League forces had suffered their share of setbacks too, often under circumstances suggesting that the enemy had obtained advance information on Marik movements. After a time Charles began to perceive a pattern in these events, and became convinced that the source of those intelligence leaks was none other than ComStar itself. ROM operatives on Atreus secretly taped meetings in which Charles expressed his belief that Com Star was guilty of duplicity. He even went so far as to postulate that ComStar might be trying to cripple the League so they would be forced to beg for direct military assistance. Charles did not, however, have tangible proof. To get the evidence he needed, the Captain-General devised a top-secret plan to expose ComStar once and for all. Only a handful of personally selected SAFE agents and the Captain-General himself were privy to the plans for Operation Cookie Jar. In February 2837, Marik visited with his sister at her posting on Oriente, at which time he told her that his troops had recently discovered a lost Star League military warehouse on Cursa. He secretly ordered the Marshall of Oriente to transmit the same information to Atreus using an older military security code that was known only to ComStar. Cookie Jar culminated on March 13 when House Liao struck at Cursa with three regiments of crack troops. Instead of capturing an SLDF warehouse, they hit a virtually abandoned world. Charles Marik had confirmed his suspicions; someone within the ranks of ComStar was selling out the Free Worlds League by passing its military intelligence to its enemies. Worse, he must have realized then that his own sister was involved in the betrayal, whether alone or with accomplices. In a rage he ordered his strike fleet, the last combat JumpShips in the Free Worlds League, to the Class A station on Oriente. Their orders were specific: to destroy the hyperpulse generator and kill all ComStar personnel. When he issued the order, Charles Marik knew that his sister Jeannette was stationed there and that she too would die. The attack and the massacre that followed caught ROM completely off guard. The massive Oriente HPG station had a working staff of more than 230 people, as well as an adjacent training center, community center, and hospice. On the morning of March 22 the foggy air around the station was abruptly filled with a seemingly endless barrage of missiles and PPC fire. The attackers gave no warning and hit with such ferocity that more than 132 civilians in the surrounding buildings also died. No Com Star personnel survived the attack that left the HPG facility a pile of scorched rubble and cinders.

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The Primus called an emergency meeting of the First Circuit to determine how ComStar would respond. The Free Worlds League had not crumbled as Primus Toyama had hoped, but had instead become a vicious and deadly enemy. Toyama called for a full Communications Interdiction against the Free Worlds League until the League admitted its crime and paid damages of triple the cost of rebuilding the station. Some members of the First Circuit argued for stronger measures, including military strikes, but the Primus assured the First Circuit that when an enemy was at war, an Interdiction on interstellar communications was an even more . . devastating tool and cost no innocent lives. Toyama broadcast a simple message to every stat1on 1n the Free Worlds League . In that message, he said: "The Free Worlds League has been placed under a full Communications lnte_rdi~tion for violating the terms and agreements of the Commun1cat1ons Protocol of 2787. Until the League admits its violation and makes proper reparation to Com Star, in an amount equal t~ tre?le t~e cost of rebuilding the Oriente relay station, all commun1cat1ons 1nto or out of the Free Worlds territories or protectorates are hereby suspended . So it is done in the name of the blessed Blake. " The Primus followed the public transmission with one to the ComStar Precentors operating within the Free Worlds League. It was an emotional message, transmitted via a fully holographic image of Primus Toyama seated behind his desk and with a portrait of Jerome Blake hanging behind him. "This is a dark hour to test our souls and belief in our blessed Order," he said . "All Com Star personnel in the Free Worlds League are ordered to shut down HPG transmissions immediately. Remove all key holy software and data dumps and extract the principal communications code boards from their transmitters. These devices and software will be passed on to Precentors, who will assign the proper agents to conceal the items. All personnel will abandon their stations and travel to the appointed safe houses established in Emergency Protocol 201 A. Remain hidden until further notice. Consult the Word of Blake and seek his divine guidance against any evil that seeks to corrupt and destroy our Order. The Peace of Blake be with you ." Throughout the Free Worlds League ComStar personnel became the focus of a witch-hunt by the weak but ever-present SAFE agency. Rewards for the apprehension of ComSt~r ade~ts and acolytes were posted within the civilian commumty, wh1le SAFE agents hunted down any suspect like a rabid animal. Soon there was no place safe for ComStar personnel within the Free Worlds League .

COMSTAR COMPOUNDS One of the most impressive achievements of Jerome Blake was his concept of integrating hyperpulse generators into a compound. During the Star League era, HPGs were installed in semifortified structures that usually formed part of a normal community. Prime Administrator Blake noted that the vital HPG stations had been nearly defenseless against the Amaris forces, most of them falling easily into the hands of the Usurper. In contrast, ComStar's new HPG compounds would be microfortresses, difficult to capture and capable of sustaining the occupants without outside contact for prolonged periods. Even today most of ComStar's compounds follow some (if not all) of Blake's earlier specifications. Rather than rely on local power, each HPG is equipped with its own fusion reactor (a dramatic shift from the Star League era) . The reactor and the HPG housing are encased in blast-proof concrete and steel. Each compound also includes housing for all staff, and is fully stocked with food , water, and other supplies to last up to a year and a half. The entire complex can be sealed for security and environmental defenses. The outer grounds are usually protected by a ferrocrete wall with high-tech Star League-era surveillance scanners and equipment. Some compounds even deploy small , carefully concealed minefields on the grounds. Under each HPG is a network of tunnels for storing supplies, spare parts, and so on. Some even support on-site medical facilities, complete with surgery. Escape tunnels into the nearby community and/or countryside also exist, totally concealed from view or detection. Adepts may use these tunnel systems to gather food, intelligence, or even to conceal some of their HPG equipment during an Interdiction. ROM apparently maintains safe houses near almost all compounds, and many of these can be accessed via these elaborate tunnel networks. Some of these tunnels were designed to house BattleMech-size equipment, hinting that Jerome Blake foresaw the possibility that ComStar might one day need to arm itself. Almost every compound also has a storage facility, including some so large that they can serve to repair and house BattleMechs. Despite the obvious sturdiness and military layout of these compounds, their exterior architecture is designed to be both pleasing to the eye and to conceal some of their fortifications and complexity. -Morgan Levaux, "ComStar Compounds and Layout," Engineering Times, Toman Press, New Avalon, 2899

MARIK GIVES IN During the first six months of the "ComStar War," ROM and SAFE squared off in a covert war of assassinations and terrorist acts while Houses Liao and Steiner mounted full offensives against the Free Worlds League. The secret war between the intelligence agencies was, for the most part, inconclusive. Both sides !ost operatives and other personnel , though SAFE suffered the heav1est losses. ComStar HPG compounds became islands for their inhabitants, cut off from external supplies and communications. ComStar personnel at first enjoyed some support among the civilian community, but soon each compound was systematically surroun~ed by Free Worlds League troops. The message that Charles Mank sent

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was clear: the Captain-General was willing to use force to protect the League, even against ComStar. The military war had a more defined winner. Neither the Liao nor the Steiner forces suffered from the lack of communications and intelligence that suddenly plagued the Free Worlds League. More than a dozen League-held worlds fell within six months. Without firing a shot, House Liao regained every world it lost in the previous seven years of fighting as the Free Worlds League army pulled back its perimeter and abandoned its conquests. Both House Davion and House Kurita sent troops to take advantage of the situation, lured like sharks to the bleeding carcass of the Free Worlds League . They hoped to dismantle House Marik's domain, removing at least one player from contention for the leadership of a new Star League. Charles Marik saw that without communications to coordinate a counteroffensive, he would have to fight a standing defensive war. Stripping entire worlds of their defenses, he redeployed troops to key strategic worlds. This consolidation of troops and BattleMechs forestalled any quick victory by an enemy, but the Free Worlds League was still crumbling . The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was a renewed Lyran Commonwealth offensive in August 2838. With support for Charles failing throughout the League, the new offensive quickly consumed Shiloh's defenders, and there was evidence that the Commonwealth was readying itself for one massive push. The Captain-General saw little hope of sustaining another two years of strictly defensive operations and knew that it would be next to impossible to mount an offense without communications. Finally forced to admit defeat, he sent his youngest son Garth to Terra aboard the JumpShip Dark Regret. The ship traveled under the white flag of truce. Garth Marik's mission was to accede to the terms of the Communications Protocol of 2787. He arrived in late September and immediately met with the Primus and the First Circuit to discuss the terms of truce. Toyama had hoped that the Free Worlds would be so weakened by the consequences of the Interdiction that Charles would instruct Garth to request ComStar's direct intervention to save the League. To Toyama's surprise, Garth Marik simply communicated that Charles was ready to accept the responsibility for destroying the Oriente HPG and pay the damages. Despite his disappointment at failing to achieve his ultimate goal with the Interdiction, Toyama pressed for damages above and beyond the original terms , asking compensation for the loss of life during the covert war between ROM and SAFE. Garth Marik was not negotiating from a position of strength for the League, but he rejected the Primus' additional terms , saying that House Marik could never accept them. The tone of the negotiations remained tense throughout, but by the middle of October the two sides had come to terms. Primus Toyama dispatched his JumpShips throughout the Free Worlds League to deliver the message that peace was restored to his adepts and acolytes. On November 9, 2838, the First Circuit communications relay once again was in operation throughout the Free Worlds League, with almost 70 percent of the League's HPGs already up and running. The others , with the exception of the Oriente HPG, were on-line by the end ofthe year. The devastated Oriente station was rebuilt some 20 kilometers from the original site and was completed in 2841 . [The site of the original HPG compound became a "peace park" maintained by ComStar until3052, when the caretaker operations were assumed by the Word of Blake.]

COMSTAR

Although Conrad Toyama had been successful in bringing ComStar closer to meeting his vision of Blake's prophesies, he failed in his dream of driving the Free Worlds League into such total submission that it would become a ComStar protectorate/state. [But let no one forget that Toyama taught the whole Inner Sphere the power of ComStar-an even greater victory. The Exclusion of Tharkad did not have nearly the impact of the Interdiction of the Free Worlds League.] Realizing that some of his own base of support in the First Circuit was weakened by the compromising end of the conflict with the Free Worlds League, the Primus began to think of retiring. Handpicking his successor, he named Precentor Raymond Karpov of Alpha C as the heir to his post. Toyama did not step down, however, until April 2837, when he suffered a massive stroke and died in his bed. The man who had denied the deathbed wish of his predecessor succeeded in having his own ashes stored in the abandoned Court of the Star League. The first act of Primus Karpov was to name Conrad Toyama a saint in the blessed ComStar Order.

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TH E

v

C~N

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Other changes were more subtle, including the establishment of nightly indoctrination sessions at each HPG to discuss the theology of Com Star and its role in the fate of the Inner Sphere. The First Circuit initially resisted the changes, wondering how anyone could be even more extreme than Toyama. Two members of the First Circuit stepped down in protest after the first of Karpov's

KARPOV ASCENDANT The Second Succession War lasted from approximately 2830 to 2864, and was just as deadly, destructive, and indecisive as its predecessor. Hundreds of millions more died in countless battles across the Inner Sphere, though only a few dozen worlds ultimately changed hands. As the war destroyed more industrial facilities and killed off more scientists and engineers, some types of specialized knowledge and technology began to disappear entirely. By the end of the Second Succession War, what had become known as the Successor States' overall level of technological knowledge had sunk to a level barely above that of Terra in the early 21st century. It was no longer easy to build advanced computers, large fusionpower plants, or starships. Instead, the leaders of the Successor Houses began to cannibalize existing equipment for the spare parts necessary to keep their current war machines in working order. The primacy of Raymond Karpov began with a suspicion that Karpov may have used an undetectable drug to hasten the death of Conrad Toyama. Perhaps it was only because Toyama died so soon after naming Karpov his successor, but the fact that the new Primus took an even more hard-line approach to the operation of ComStar than Toyama fueled the scandal. One of Primus Toyama's most important initiatives was the creation of special procedures that required an almost magical incantation to be recited from technical manuals whenever Com Star techs operated HPG equipment. Under the reign of Primus Karpov these mystical procedures became a writ of law. Soon no piece of Com Star equipment could be operated unless accompanied by an incantation from one of the technical readouts. These were intoned in the same manner as a Gregorian chant, with heavy religious overtones. Those who did not follow the writ soon found themselves facing ROM interrogators or else being shipped off to a reeducation camp. [Again our errant brothers have misunderstood the intention of this writ. Primus Karpov knew that in the dark years to come mankind would lose almost all its knowledge of high technology, as predicted by the Word of Blake. Karpov took a lesson from the history of Terra, where religious orders had used chants to carry on their work even through the darkest of times. These chants and prayers were the means he used to preserve and to pass on this precious technology. The chants took on religious tones because ComStar IS a religion-the religion of preserving mankind.] Primus Karpov pushed Toyama's radical interpretations of the Word of Blake even further, envisioning ComStar as a theocracy. Though some of his changes were minor, they endured for nearly two centuries and had a powerful symbolic impact. Karpov insisted, for example, that all members of Com Star wear white robes instead of the gray jumpsuits used by techs since the Blake era. In his own words, "white represents the purity of Blake's vision and of Com Star's intent." Often these robes were adorned with mathematical symbols taken from the holy "scriptures" of a physics book or technical readout.

COMSTAR

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CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE One of the most startling incidents neatly buried in the history of ROM relates to Michelle Dupreas, the first head of the clandestine organization . She was one of the driving forces in the creation of ROM and built up the intelligence agency almost from scratch. Her successes during the ComStar War and the Second Succession War were unparalleled, yet her career ended in mystery and disgrace . After her formal resignation from ComStar and ROM, Dupreas traveled to Italy, seeking reflection and quiet. Five days after her arrival her hovercar was involved in a high-speed accident outside Milan, killing her and burning her remains in the wreck. ROM investigators ruled that Dupreas had lost control of the vehicle and crashed, but a detailed investigation of the local records revealed that several key factors were dismissed by the agents assigned to the case. The accident has marked parallels to other ROM-related assassinations as well. These inconsistencies are as follows: 1. There is a distinct laser hole in the rear of the hovercar. Tests of the residue confirmed that some weapon had been fired at the Dupreas vehicle within the week prior to the crash , if not during the wreck itself. 2. The Dupreas itinerary for that day did not take her to the vicinity of the crash. According to two witnesses, she received a message to meet with a former co-worker at an abandoned factory near Milan. 3. The autopsy of Dupreas' body revealed normal burns from a crash at high speeds, but also evidence of a laser burn near the base of the neck against the bone itself. The conclusion of my thesis is as follows: Michelle Dupreas, the first head of ROM, was assassinated on orders of then Primus Raymond Karpov and Janice Laidlaw. -Professor Shantilly Westbury, "ROM and Its Founders," Ph.D dissertation, Tharkad University, 3002. ComStar Historical Archives, File 300-25509AJD

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reforms, but this simply allowed him to solidify his majority with new appointments to the First Circuit. Michelle Dupreas of ROM had been a long-time friend and associate of Karpov's, but the two found themselves on a collision course shortly after Karpov assumed the primacy. In the summer of 2838 Primus Karpov instituted Organizational Edict 3056, which called for the expansion of ROM. He planned to change the scope of ROM 's mission from internal security to becoming a weapon against the technical experts of the Inner Sphere houses. As the Second Succession War progressed, scientists, engineers, and industrial facilities became increasingly favored targets. By the end of the war, several specialized technologies had disappeared, and the Successor States' overall technological level had sunk to nearly the same level as that of Terra nearly eight centuries before. Unable to easily build starships, advanced computers, or similarly complex machinery, the leaders of the Successor Houses resorted to cannibalizing existing equipment for the spare parts necessary to keep their current war machines in working order. In the process, some within the Successor States acquired just enough knowledge of how their machines worked to make them-in Karpov's mind-dangerous to ComStar. In his presentation of Edict 3056, the Primus cited several research projects within the Federated Suns, whose existence ROM had uncovered in coded transmissions sent from the bases. These transcripts indicated that the Federated Suns was making groping efforts to research hyperpulse technology for FTL message transmissions-a direct threat to ComStar's monopoly on interstellar communications . ROM also reported that the Lyran Commonwealth was carrying out similar attempts to recover the technology of ferro-fibrous armor construction, which had not been in use for more than 20 years because the wars had destroyed both the factories and the scientists and technicians who understood the manufacturing process. Primus Karpov believed that all such technological research posed a direct threat to ComStar-not only to the organization 's position in the Inner Sphere, but to the Word of Jerome Blake, who had foreseen that the Great Houses would ultimately destroy themselves . Karpov easily persuaded the First Circuit to his viewpoint, and they approved the edict almost without discussion. Dupreas, however, believed that such blatant use of power was a direct violation of Blake's word , which emphasized that ComStar not interfere directly in the affairs of the Inner Sphere states. She appeared before the First Circuit to challenge the edict, but the Precentors would not support her against their extremist Primus. Karpov was so shocked by Dupreas' defiance that he called her a heretic to the true word of Blake, and demanded her immediate resignation. As the discussion escalated into argument, Dupreas finally called in two of her own ROM agents to escort her from the First Circuit Chamber. Within 24 hours she had tendered her resignation, not just from her post but from ComStar. Primus Karpov named Janice Laidlaw, a staunch supporter of his policies, as the new head of ROM. She immediately laid the groundwork for implementing Organizational Edict 3056. She drew up a list of more than a hundred key researchers and scientists in the Inner Sphere who she and Karpov agreed should be considered "threats" to Jerome Blake's prophesy that the Inner Sphere would descend into a technological dark age. Precentor Laidlaw ordered ROM to begin planning covert assassinations of these individuals.

COMSTAR

COMSTAR STRIKES Under the free reign that the First Circuit now extended to ROM, its agents began to systematically assassinate the best scientific minds of the Inner Sphere. The plan was named Operation Holy Shroud and lasted for almost five years. During that time more than 300 scientists and researchers in the Inner Sphere perished. ROM made sure that none of these deaths could ever be traced back to Com Star, in most cases making them appear to be accidents. Fires, freak accidents, car wrecks , all took their toll on the great minds of the age. The House Lords suspected a plot, but each one believed the threat came from another rival House Lord, never suspecting ComStar. Operation Holy Shroud spilled over into a number of other areas. Universities also became targets, especially those equipped with extensive research laboratories. On the Steiner world of Olympia, for example, Tharkad University's Hayden Medical Research Building was burned to the ground, but an investigation turned up only a faulty Bunsen burner left unattended as the cause. In the Federated Commonwealth the University of Saso's McGinnis Engineering/Science Lab suffered an explosion in the stored chemical facility that killed 20 people and leveled the lab. Taken separately, these acts of sabotage seemed unrelated and no one suspected more than bad luck. A little-known element of Operation Holy Shroud dealt with an ongoing threat to Com Star, the continual discovery of Star League

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caches left behind by the long-departed SLDF. Many of these caches were worthless stockpiles of ammunition that had long since outlived their usefulness. Others consisted of perishables or other expendable items. The caches that caused the greatest problems for Com Star were those containing stockpiles of weapons, technology, or even functional BattleMechs. Though some of the caches were small, others were vast treasure houses of tech and materiel. In reading ROM reports of cache recoveries, Primus Karpov grew fearful that one of these stockpiles might provide one or more House governments with HPG technology or allow them to recover some other lost technological marvel. Special ROM teams were assigned throughout the Inner Sphere to track down possible Star League caches and to remove the technology before anyone else could find it. Other teams were assigned to infiltrate the Great Houses and to sabotage any efforts at recovering technology from the caches that ComStar could not prevent being discovered. Karpov himself had been a Precentor during the Toyama regime and had taken part in the covert struggle between Com Star and the Free Worlds League. He considered the outcome of the ComStar War a lesson learned rather than a failure. In 2854 he persuaded the First Circuit to formally approve making a fixed number of acolyte positions available to the scions of the most powerful Inner Sphere families, namely those related to the ruling House lines or to prominent MechWarrior families. Though the First Circuit members were apprehensive at first about opening the door of Com Star to the outside world, these new acolytes gave the Primus exactly what he had hoped to gaindetailed insights into the current status of the Great Houses and their levels of technology.

In the late 2850s problems began to surface in the one area where Com Star was assured control, within the HPG network itself. ComStar's efforts to strengthen and expand the vast communications network had succeeded too well. With the Terra H PG on Hilton Head acting as the main control system for the entire network via the First Circuit Class A transmitters, the increased communications load had dramatically slowed transmission time. As part of his reforms, Karpov increased the First Circuit to ten stations in 2857. The newest members were Precentors Arcturus, Oriente, Altair, and Capella. This massive upgrade of these HPG transmitters supported the new message load and left plenty of room for future growth. With ROM sweeping the Inner Sphere's technology base free of competition, Primus Karpov turned his attention to the burgeoning organizational structure of ComStar. With more than a dozen new HPG stations recently opened in the Periphery, Karpov could see that structural problems were beginning to emerge within the organization. In an auditor's report on the status of the Order, he found that each HPG station had begun to "customize" its management structure. In some places five layers of management existed between the Precentor and acolyte levels. Karpov recognized that this made it more difficult to control ComStar, for the key to his own power as Primus was tied to his ability to communicate directly with even the lowest-ranking members of the Order. With the proliferation of management levels, such direct contact often became impossible. In addition, doctrinal edicts now had to filter through so many levels that their intent was often garbled, if not completely lost. Karpov addressed the problem by issuing the Doctrinal Edict of 2861, which formalized the process of naming a Primus. The current Primus would choose his/her successor, who would then

THE LOPEZ INCIDENT Transmission Code: Velvet Level Access Only Date: August 12, 2853 TO: Precentor ROM FROM: Agent Fleeting Mirage RE: Operation Holy Shroud, File 5001 RAM, Lopez

Per our previous discussion I recommend that news of this recovery be leaked to the Capellan Confederation as soon as possible. I have no doubt that this will make Lopez a target for a raid. In the confusion of the firelight, my agents and I will set off explosive devices to collapse the tunnel and destroy the contents. Given the fact that the SLDF heavily mined the exterior and that it will take at least four weeks before any equipment can be removed, it is vital that Capellan forces be notified as soon as possible of this find . We can slow efforts by sabotaging equipment, but th is may place our end plans in jeopardy. The Peace of Blake be with you. -Transcript from ROM File 9021 0-FWL: Star League Cache [EDITOR'S NOTE: No record exists of any communications between the Precentor, ROM, or the Capellan Confederation during this period, but within three weeks of this report Lopez was attacked by a BattleMech assault battalion. There were neither survivors nor recovered technology left at the Foghorn Highlands digging site. All records of the site were destroyed in the battle as well.)

Per our standing operating orders, I wish to report to you our success at infiltrating the Free Worlds League Delta Recovery unit at the digging site in the Foghorn Highlands on Lopez. I and two other operatives have been assigned jobs as common diggers at the site, which appears to be a former Star League Defense Force training depot. The underground facility is in fair condition, and most of the excavation work is at the former entrance to the site , which is now buried under several tons of dirt seeded with mines-a legacy from Kerensky's departure. Our probes indicate that at least 24 BattleMechs are buried inside and at least as many vehicles. The site also has storage containers of undetermined content. I fear that recovery of this lost technology may pose a direct threat to Com Star's position.

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KARPOV'S IRON CURTAIN Primus Raymond Karpov carried the religious direction of Com Star to lengths that shocked many both within and outside of the Order. His changes set the stage, in his own words, ''for the preservation of our blessed Order. The Word of Blake states that only the great religions survive the darkest of wars , and my mission is to ensure that Com Star survives the dark age of mankind that is unfolding." His reforms were dramatic and his use of ROM was precedent-setting, especially his covert war against the technology being developed by the scientists and engineers of the Great Houses. Other changes within Com Star under Karpov were more subtle. In order to protect his adepts from corruption by locals, the Primus instituted a rotational posting system . No ComStar personnel would remain on a given assignment or world for more than two years , and it became virtually impossible to infiltrate the ranks of Com Star. -From The Primacy of ComStar: Mad Rulers, Mad Times, by Alexa Shao, New Wilde Press , March

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be confirmed by the First Circuit. The only formal organization recognized below the Primus was the position of Precentor of each world . The Precentor controlled the ranks of the adepts, the working technicians. Finally, at the lowest level of the hierarchy were the acolytes. Though this three-tiered structure already existed in many places, established in the time of Blake and Toyama, Karpov made it official.

THE VEDDAR AFFAIR Primus Karpov formalized even more procedures following one of the most shocking incidents of his primacy, the successful penetration of ComStar by an agent of Loki , the Lyran Commonwealth's intelligence organization. Working undercover, Rosemary Veddar rose undetected through the ranks of ComStar for three years, becoming an adept while passing vital information to the Commonwealth. She was discovered only after one of ROM's intensive sweeps through the ranks, but committed suicide before she could be interrogated. The Veddar Affair, as it became known , shook the halls of Hilton Head and the First Circuit as the first external threat in years to their power. Karpov's response was to increase ROM's role in detecting outside agents. Using lie detection equipment and even drugs dating back to the Star League era, ROM began to test current members of the Order as well as subtly checking potential acolytes who wished to join. Those who did not pass the tests were either not admitted, or allowed to join and tailed by ROM to expose their contacts in the Great House governments. A review of the records from the first few years after the Veddar Affair show that ROM discovered and killed more than three dozen House agents as a result of these stringent measures.

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The Second Succession War had nearly run itself out by 2864, but Primus Karpov was still facing some of the same difficulties that Conrad Toyama had confronted earlier in the century. The leaders of the Great Houses had all but abandoned the conflict in an effort to rebuild their war-weary states. To Primus Karpov, as to Primus Toyama before him, the cessation of hostilities was the worst possible threat to ComStar. Should peace prevail for long in the Inner Sphere, the prophecies of Jerome Blake might not be fulfilled . Karpov and the rest of the First Circuit feared that a prolonged

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peace would also spell the end of ComStar's monopoly on technology. Rumors that both House Kurita and Davion had approved research projects in an attempt to recover some of the technology lost in two centuries of ongoing war filtered in from ROM agents, this despite that organization's success in eliminating many Inner Sphere scientists and engineers. Similar rumblings emerged from the Commonwealth, the Free Worlds League, and, to a minor extent, from the Capellan Confederation. During his State of the Inner Sphere Report to the First Circuit in 2866, the Precentor ROM predicted that the Inner Sphere would be likely to recover all the lost technology within three decades. The Primus reacted quickly. Following the example of his predecessor, Karpov used ComStar to filter information to the Lyran Commonwealth about the power struggle that had begun within the ranks of the Draconis Combine Internal Security Force, a conflict the people of the Combine dubbed the Shadow War. When Voguchi Kurita, Coordinator Miyogi's predecessor, had placed the ISF under the command of the Kurita military, Miyogi's astute sister Roweena had stepped in to soothe the ruffled egos of the insulted ISF elite, and allowed the ISF to use her People's Reconstruction Effort to gain access to all portions of Kurita society. Miyogi, fearing his sister's growing power after the end of the Second Succession War, ordered the ISF to spy on her alleged "un-Combine" activities, not knowing how deeply Roweena had sunk her claws into the intelligence agency. The ISF split into proRoweena and pro-Miyogi factions. Rajiv Sulevani , an ISF agent fanatically loyal to the Coordinator, began a secret assassination campaign to rid the ISF of pro-Roweena operatives. Roweena's faction retaliated in kind. By 2865, more than a thousand metsuke had been killed in the Shadow War. ComStar "shared" this and other, deceptive information with the House Lords. To avenge this shame Miyogi attacked the Lyrans, drawing the Inner Sphere into war once more-the Third Succession War. From the Combine's invasion of the Lyran Commonwealth's co reward territory, war soon spread across the Inner Sphere. In the years that followed , combat became such a fact of everyday life that the period has become known simply as "the Succession Wars. " Nonetheless, campaigns during this period never matched the violence of the previous two wars . At first the decrease in destruction and bloodshed appeared to be more a function of each army's reduced resources than a philosophical change in tactics . As time passed , however, and the exigencies of a scavenger economy took hold, each of the Houses realized it could ill afford further losses of vital resources . Gradually an informal set of rules of war evolved , similar to the Ares Conventions. 'Mech units and armies still fought over possession of operational factories, but neither side attempted to harm the facility itself. (The losers simply consoled themselves with the idea that they would win the planet in the next war.) Major 'Mech battles, especially between mercenary units, were often fought in stages, with both sides allowing enemy Techs to enter the battlefield during periods of truce to attend to damaged 'Mechs. Other 'Mech units, again especially mercenaries, revived the old tradition of surrendering to a superior force and paying a ransom to obtain their offworld release. Most important, everyone recognized the sanctity of

THE KARPOV LEGACY Raymond Andre Karpov is one of the most misunderstood leaders of ComStar. Some historians consider him a religious zealot, blinded by the sudden power thrust into his hands. Others characterize him as a tool of the conservatives of the First Circuit. The truth probably falls somewhere between. Karpov was neither charismatic nor cultivated, and so had little success as a diplomat. Everyone close to him considered him abrasive as well as extremist in his views. He was also a person of little mercy, the first Primus to make use of ROM as a tool of assassination and death. Karpov, for all of his own personal flaws, understood human greed and arrogance. He played on these by sending information about the Shadow War raging covertly in the Combine to the Lyran Commonwealth, knowing that the egotistical Kuritans would punish all outsiders who learned of their difficulties in order to save face. As Karpov expected, the full force of the shamed Kuritans' wrath fell upon the Lyran Commonwealth. Not only did Miyogi Kurita need to save face in the aftermath of the Shadow War, but he also wanted to punish the audacity of Lyran traders attempting to expand their influence deep into the Rasalhague Military District. In 2866, the Draconis Combine launched an offensive against the Commonwealth worlds of Chateau, lear, and Steelton that touched off the Third Succession War. Despite the success of maintaining Blake's predictions about the fragmentation of human society through war, Raymond Karpov was growing disenchanted with the politics of the First Circuit. The conservatives wanted him to go even further in his theocratic reforms, while the liberals complained that he carried the word of Blake too far. Growing despondent and depressed, in 287 4 he simply stopped attending meetings of the First Circuit for three months, instead spending his time at a Com Star hospice some three hundred kilometers from Hilton Head. -From The Karpov Years , Precentor Meryl Gellman, ComStar Archives, 2883

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any side's JumpShips and strictly obeyed the prohibition against attacking such craft. Without JumpShips, the war for supremacy could not be waged at all. A second outgrowth of the destructiveness of the Succession Wars was the rise of feudalism throughout the Inner Sphere. The c~ntral governments of the ruling Houses no longer possessed e1ther the administrative machinery or absolute military resources to maintain centralized control over their territories. Instead, each House Lord ruled a hierarchy of planetary nobles. These nobles were often drawn from the leadership of the Lord's most elite 'Mech units, having won full authority over worlds in exchange for the pledged service of their BattleMechs. Indeed, the years of conflict wreaked havoc beyond Primus Karpov's wildest dreams. He felt, however, that the obstructionist policies of an increasingly hostile First Circuit prevented him from exploiting the violence to its fullest. . . Raymond Karpov stepped down as Primus in 2875, citing fai11ng health as the reason . Most historians agree , however, that it was not his health but his weakened popularity that prompted him to step down. His decades as Primus had transformed ComStar into an organization of dark mysteries in which every member must constantly look over his or her shoulder for ROM. [It should be noted that former Primus Karpov remained active within our blessed Order until his death in 2880. His humanitarian work in administering the Blake Medical Center in Europe earned him distinction and honor in his later years. He was canonized during the primacy of Yin Takami-a testimony to his legacy.]

COMSTAR

SLOW CHANGE In his later years Karpov may have had second thoughts about some of his more extreme reforms. As a compromise with his critics he had named the more liberal Andrea Marleen, Precentor Arcturus, as his successor several years earlier. Marleen enjoyed a wider base of support among the First Circuit and often moderated some of the high-pressure rhetoric of the former Primus. Marleen's first three years as Primus were difficult, for the citizens ofTerra had begun to chafe underComStar's rule. Though ComStar had begun to rebuild and restore Terra from the devastation of the Amaris years, many still remembered the glorious history of the Hegemony. Several radical political groups began to ag itate for the idea of a Terra independent even from Com Star, and those radicals built a following . Though somewhat less harsh than Karpov, Andrea Marleen still recognized the groups as a threat to ComStar. When they stepped up their efforts to include terrorist-style bombings of Com Star re-education camps and other facilities, Primus Marleen organized her counterattack. In a speech at Harvard University, Primus Marleen pledged to support a "Terra First" pol icy. Proposing an all-out effort to improve the life of the average Terran, she called for the construction of twelve massive arcologies in various parts of Terra. These megacomplexes would employ millions and would raise the standard of living for millions more. More important, they would provide the people of Terra with a concrete symbol of ComStar's commitment to the planet, which she hoped would eliminate rebellious thoughts of independence from their minds. [To read this history one might get the impression that Com Star was against independent thought or reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, ideas that contradict the blessed Jerome Blake are inherently evil and dangerous. These were the types of corrupting thoughts that Primus Marteen hoped to eradicate.] Primus Marleen also pressed for a massive recovery effort in the ruins of Unity City, capital of the former Star League. The goal was to recover some of the Star League technology as well as to prepare the site for the eventual reconstruction. She called for similar efforts on the terra formed worlds of Venus and Mars, where war damage still remained. Her impassioned speech drew some support away from the militant political groups, but others believed it was no more than political rhetoric . The tables turned fully when the Black December group exploded a bomb in the Euro-English Channel Tunnel in the summer of 2877. Jerrold Komandi, the Precentor visiting from New Earth, was scheduled to traverse the tunnel for a speech in London at the time of the explosion , but a simple traffic delay saved him from his date with destiny. More than a thousand civilians were killed instantly in the bombing. Black December sent out several messages claiming responsibility for the incident and calling the Precentor of New Earth a liar and puppet of the Primus. ComStar immediately sent in huge numbers of rescue teams and relief equipment, but only a handful of lives could be saved. Black December found it had lost whatever support it might once have enjoyed. The incident proved to be a turning point for Primus Marleen. The people of Terra were outraged at Black December's use of random violence to strike at ComStar. The civilians wanted more

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freedom, but not at the price the terrorists asked. Too many innocent lives had been lost. Marteen turned the terrorist issue into a propaganda bonanza. She called for a full investigation of the attack and demanded that the members of Black December be caught and put on trial. News broadcasts throughout Terra and the rest of the Inner Sphere kept the story alive. The scenes of dead children being hauled out of the ruins by ComStar relief workers were compelling and appalling . ROM operatives allegedly discovered the hideout of Black December three months later, killing all the terrorists in the shootout that erupted as they tried to capture the members. The public was satisfied with the results, and even more so when construction began on the massive Kishmir Arcology, the first of the projected megacomplexes. Dissatisfaction with ComStar had all but evaporated . Two centuries wou ld pass before the truth would emerge from the sealed files of the Com Star Archives. Under orders from Primus Marteen it was ROM who had staged the so-called "terrorist attack." Only after Primus Waterly stepped down were the files opened and the truth revealed for the first time. (Primus Waterly did not "step down "; she was assassinated. No new facts have emerged-this is just another attempt by Com Star to revise history to show that ours was not a benevolent religion, but

BEHIND THE SCENES TO : Precentor ROM Joleen Weber FROM : Primus Andrea Marteen DATE: March 3, 2877 Karma Level Alpha Priority I greet you , my sister in Blake. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The following classified record has only recently been unsealed.] The recent protests by the civilians of Terra pose a direct threat to Com Star's future in the Inner Sphere. Such resistance by a few militants could spread out of control and soon threaten the very foundation of the will of Blake. As head of ROM , it is your responsibility to suppress this independence movement using whatever means necessary. Having reviewed your original proposal , I believe that an "incident" resulting in massive destruction and even a great loss of civilian life may be effective in eroding this movement if the blame can be laid on one of the terrorist organizations. I recommend targeting Black December or the Terran Liberation Front (TLF) . No trace that might link your efforts to ComStar must remain . The alleged terrorists cannot come to trial-only pure justice need be administered, as Blake would have deemed necessary. This matter and all documentation concerning it will be sealed permanently under my orders for Primus Level Authorization. No one involved can risk exposure in our lifetime. Assure your operatives that they will be protected by the Word of Blake.

COM STAR

rather a cutthroat band of killers. This "new evidence" is most likely a public relations gimmick on their part, designed to stir new interest in their waning organization. No physical evidence implicates ROM in the bombing. The memo they present as evidence most likely never reached the proper hands, and Black December probably acted on its own volition. The lack of any other supporting documentation dramatically weakens this alleged evidence.] Like her predecessors, Primus Marteen often had to struggle with the disagreements among the First Circuit. Following the Black December incident several members accused her of complicity in the event. The economic downturn of 2878 created by the Primus' massive funding of the arcology construction projects made matters worse. With each passing month Primus Marteen found her support dwindling further. Matters reached a head in 2882 when Primus Marteen proposed raising transmission rates to all of the Great Houses to help stabilize the C-bill exchange rate . A conservative element in the First Circuit used the opportunity as a wedge against the Primus, refusing to support this or any other econom ic reforms. The Primus met with the opposing Precentors privately and three days later announced that her successor to the primacy would be one of these conservatives, Dwight Kurstin, Precentor Caph. To no one's surprise the Primus' proposed rate increase passed within a month.

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that he was appointing her strictly on the merits of her skills and abilities, but the First Circuit argued that the young woman was too inexperienced for such a position of prestige and power. Several members of the Circuit, led by Precentor Marshall, implied that the young woman's appointment was based not on her skills but rather on her family ties to the Primus. The Primus took the failure of his candidate as a personal challenge to his authority by the First Circuit. When word of these difficulties leaked somehow to the outside world, several leaders of the Great Houses also began to wonder if, in fact, the new Primus had plotted the death of Marleen. Both Elizabeth Marik and Joseph Davion II refused to attend Primus Marleen's state funeral because of the rumors and suspicions. A public snubbing by two House leaders proved to be too much for Kurstin. He began to see enemies everywhere, both within and outside of ComStar. When he learned that two young adepts were responsible for leaking the rumor, he ordered them executed without trial, which further eroded his already failing support. In one particularly stormy session of the First Circuit, Kurstin called Precentor Kohler to the floor and accused him baldly of plotting against him. Kohler flatly denied the charge. Proclaiming Kohler a heretic and a traitor, the enraged Primus dismissed the First Circuit and ordered ROM to take the Precentor into custody. Within three hours of the end of the session all members of the First Circuit received a message from the Primus that Precentor Kohler had died of natural causes while still in custody. No one believed it, of course, and they knew that the Primus had gone too far. If they wondered at the paranoia that made him see plots everywhere, now they realized for the first time that they had confirmed a madman to assume the primacy. (Kurstin never ordered the death of Kohler, nor is there any proof that Kohler died by torture. The fact is that Kohler was so panicked that he might be tortured by ROM that he suffered a massive heart attack. Primus Kurstin was innocent.] The Precentor of Procyon, Gregori Hartford, called for a secret meeting of the surviving First Circuit members. They met in the one secure place on all of Terra where no one from ROM or ComStar was likely to follow them, the empty halls of the Court of the Star League . Only there were they safe in the knowledge that the Primus could not overhear their conversations. Gregori Hartford carefully laid out the options as he saw them to the other members of the First Circuit. ComStar law made no legal provision for the First Circuit removing a Primus from office, regardless of his/her mental or physical state. Besides, with ROM reporting directly to the Primus, there was no way to physically remove him from office. Their best hope was to leave Terra to see how the Primus would react, but at the same time ensuring that no hint of his mental condition leaked out, for fear one of the Inner Sphere leaders might try to seize Com Star's assets during this time of disadvantage. Despite her political differences with Hartford, Precentor Marshall gave her crucial support to the proposal. Primus Kurstin was infuriated when he learned that the First Circuit members had left Terra. Ten days after their departure he sent a message to all First Circuit HPGs that he intended to be broadcast to every ComStar HPG, but the watchful First Circuit managed to intercept it.

In his journals Jerome Blake had written that, "the greatest threat to the mission of ComStar will most likely come from within. Even the strongest oak tree can succumb to a disease that rots it from the inside out." [Com Star quotes Blake correctly, but they fail to see that their abandonment of his word is one and the same disease.] Such an internal threat surfaced in January 2901 when Primus Marleen suffered a fatal accident while she and Precentor Kurstin were touring the capital of Caph. The two were riding in her hover limo when the vehicle swerved to avoid hitting some refugees crossing the road. The hover car plowed into a building, exploding only moments later and killing the Primus. Stunned but not hurt, Precentor Kurstin had managed to crawl free just prior to the explosion. A second car full of ROM security immediately secured the area and tried to rescue the Primus , but it was too late. As the successor to the Primus, Dwight Kurstin was swiftly whisked away to Terra for his own protection. Within a month he was confirmed the fifth Primus of ComStar. In the meantime, ComStar had been investigating the somewhat strange coroner's report that the Primus had died as the result of a sharp blow that broke her neck. From what could be deduced from the remains of the heavily padded interior of the limo, the shock-cushioning material did not appear to have been breached. The results of the investigation were inconclusive at best, but the new Primus believed that it was an attempt to implicate him in the death of his predecessor. Outraged, Primus Kurstin publicly denied any involvement in the accident, then ordered that the two investigators responsible for the case be arrested for contempt of his office; he later had them executed by a firing squad. (Primus Kurstin was a sad man, driven to extremes. None can argue that he lost his senses later in his reign, but he would never have attempted to assassinate Marteen. The accident that cut short her regime was tragic, but not a sinister one.] With each passing week Primus Kurstin became more convinced that the members of the First Circuit secretly accused him of complicity in the death of his predecessor. In reaction to his own paranoia, he ordered ROM to investigate several members of the Circuit for their possible involvement in the incident. From scrawled notes recovered after his death, it is now obvious that Primus Kurstin saw plots against him everywhere. Perhaps the stress of being thrust into a position of such power triggered a mental instability that had previously been latent. Matters became even worse when the Primus made his first appointment to fill a vacancy on the First Circuit. It was customary for the First Circuit to confirm all appointments to their inner circle, but in the entire history of ComStar they had never vetoed an appointment to the First Circuit. When Primus Kurstin appointed Dana Kurstin , his first cousin, to the Precentor's seat for Barnard, all that changed . Dana Kurstin had been an acolyte for a mere ten months when she suddenly became the center of controversy. The Primus claimed

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This one-minute speech (later known as the Witch-Hunt Transmission) was all the proof that the First Circuit needed that their leader was indeed mad. Precentor Hartford had foreseen the Primus' move, however, and simply ordered the First Circuit to operate without central coordination from the Terran HPG. In other words, the First Circuit was imposing a communications interdiction against Terra itself. The result of that action would cut off the Primus from the ability to rally ROM. Carrying it out required the Class A stations to manually manipulate the equipment, which meant running triple or quadruple shifts to keep up the transmission flow . Though messages moved more slowly, the Inner Sphere never realized that Terra and the Primus of ComStar were incommunicado. Nor did their intelligence services learn that a civil war raged within Com Star, tribute to the skill and speed of Precentor Hartford's plans. When Primus Kurstin realized that Terra was under a semiinterdiction, he immediately ordered five ComStar JumpShips to take his edict to the rest of the Inner Sphere. He ordered ROM to assassinate the "renegades" of the First Circuit by burning them at the stake. Driven over the edge, Kurstin unleashed an internal purge reminiscent of Primus Toyama's Purification. Many innocent adepts and acolytes were systematically rounded up and summarily killed by ROM on orders of the "Mad Primus," as he later became known. Kurstin (and some 100 ROM bodyguards) left Hilton Head Island for the Court of the Star League. Having learned of Gregori

Hartford's clandestine meeting there, he declared the building to be the seat of his new ComStar Order. The age-old halls echoed with the same madness that had consumed Stefan Amaris centuries earlier as Primus Kurstin unsealed the throne room and assumed the First Lord's throne as his own seat of power. Seeing their leader so mentally incapacitated prompted several of his bodyguards to attempt to desert. He had their bodies drawn and quartered as a lesson to any others who might attempt to break faith with the Primus. Recordings made via the security systems still operating in the Court showed how insane Dwight Kurstin had become. He had the ashes of Conrad Toyama exhumed and set them before the throne, carrying on conversations with the former Primus. Tapes of these conversations were recovered after his death and are now stored in the ComStar Archives. To date they have never been made public. In one of his more daring moves Primus Kurstin contracted the services of three regiments of mercenaries that happened to be on Terra at the time seeking new employment. Kurstin offered them triple pay to work for ComStar in the "defense of Terra." Unaware that the Primus had virtually no support outside of Terra and that he was quite mad, they accepted the offer. Loyalists in ROM managed to carry the Primus' message to several worlds of the Inner Sphere, but even ROM was split in its loyalties. In the end, however, neither the Primus nor the First Circuit had enough support with ROM to give either side a decisive edge. Many in ROM simply laid low during the year-long crisis, trying not to take any side in the conflict. Most of ROM was still with the Primus, but both sides were so permeated by double agents that any serious attempt at waging an intelligence war was difficult. The members of the First Circuit had gone into hiding, but other Precentors offered them both assistance and support by providing sanctuary and maintaining information networks. Some hint of the ComStar civil war almost became public when ROM agents opened fire on the offices of Federated Suns Precentor Kintos on Elbar, killing the Precentor and three of his adepts. Several civilians who happened to be near the HPG compound witnessed the incident, but Gregori Hartford's supporters suppressed the news, denying that the incident ever happened . Primus Kurstin realized that he was isolated on Terra, unable to communicate with membersoftheOrderwithoutusingJumpShips to physically carry his message. By the fall of 2901 he initiated the first stages of Operation Winged Crusader, in which he assigned vintage Star League equipment to the mercenary forces under his command. These troops would assault the First Circuit's HPGs, retaking them and returning them to the primacy's control. Kurstin would then be able to spread his word and will to all the worlds of the Inner Sphere and initiate a new purge within the ranks of Com Star. Word of Winged Crusader leaked to the First Circuit in exile. Such a blatant use of military force was obviously contradictory to the will of Blake, which drew even more supporters to their side and away from the Primus. Precentor Hartford knew that if the Primus' plan were successful, all resistance would be crushed and Com Star would be totally under the thumb of the mad Kurstin. Fearing that the true will of Blake was endangered, Precentor Hartford smuggled a message back to Terra to a ROM agent known only as Saber. Prior to his departure from Terra earlier that year, Gregori Hartford had suspected that this moment might arrive, all the while hoping it would not. Now the Primus was forcing his hand. The message was a code order to the mysterious Saber to assassinate the Primus.

TO REIGN IN HELL